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Saks to Focus on Shopping Experience in '05

Lisa Ashcraft, Michele SanFilippo -- Home Textiles Today, March 28, 2005

New York — Saks Incorporated is focused on improving the shopping experience in 2005 at its Saks Fifth Avenue stores and Saks Department Store Group, company executives said during a presentation at the Merrill Lynch Retailing Leaders conference last week.

Stephen Sadove, vice chairman and chief operating officer of Saks Inc., said the company's goal for SDSG is to be “the best regional department store in the hometown community.” He added that the company grew market share in nine out of its top 10 markets last year.

“We're making the department store an experience with new shop concepts to differentiate through such measures as innovative technology, plasma TV screens, demonstration kitchens and salon/spas,” said Sadove.

He said 35 percent of the product sold in SDSG stores is differentiated at present. The goal is to trade up products to a more modern contemporary styling very gradually so the customer doesn't feel alienated.

In addition, the company has taken action per Sadove to add stores in markets where populations are growing, such as Des Moines, Iowa; Birmingham, Ala.; and Jackson, Fla.

Meanwhile, at Saks Fifth Avenue stores, the focus will be on improving style and personalization of service in order to deliver a world-class shopping experience. “We are transforming the way we go to the consumer and the way we look to make the experience of Saks Fifth Avenue come alive,” added Sadove, stating that Saks Fifth Avenue currently makes $400 in sales per square foot.

As examples of this strategy, he referred to the recent retraining of staff, testing of the remodeled Boston and Boca Raton, Fla., stores to improve the customer experience, and the enhanced catalog business.

“We also think there is a real opportunity in the New York store in terms of a flagship vision,” Sadove said. “I think it's an icon of American retailing that has an enormous heritage, but there is still a lot of room for growth.” He pointed to the first, fifth and seventh floors, with their enhancements to the overall shopping experience, as finishing touches the company wants to keep adding.

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