By  on October 25, 2011

Saks Off 5th has named Peter Rizzo senior vice president and creative director, merchandising.

It’s a new role at Saks Inc.’s burgeoning off-price division, which is growing faster than the full-line Saks Fifth Avenue stores. Off 5th will end 2011 with 62 locations and has set five openings for 2012, underscoring the popularity and profitability of the sector, while no new full-line sites have been set.

In 2008, Off 5th launched a more polished format. The newer stores have loftlike, 25,000- to 28,000-square-foot interiors and fixturing that’s movable to flex assortments.

Rizzo, a seasoned merchant best known for his high taste level and men’s wear experience at Barneys, where he rose to executive vice president and was mentored by the legendary Fred Pressman, has consulted with Saks Fifth Avenue to develop men’s private brands since 2008. He was instrumental in launching the Saks Fifth Avenue Men’s Collection, which the company said now represents one of its largest men’s brands. Rizzo has also served as president of Polo Ralph Lauren Retail Corp. president and vice chairman of Bergdorf Goodman, and chairman and chief executive officer of I.C. Isaacs & Co.

At Off 5th, Rizzo will expand his scope to women’s apparel, accessories and footwear in addition to men’s wear, and he will work in both the private label and market brand arenas. He will report to Robert Wallstrom, president of Saks Off 5th who called Rizzo “an innovator.”

Rizzo said that private brands will continue to grow as a percentage of the offering at Off 5th, but conveyed that the intent is to elevate the offering across the board. Decades ago, Saks Fifth Avenue’s selling floors were dominated by private labels. “Saks private label was the standard bearer,” Rizzo said. “The mission now is about leveraging the heritage and having product that can sit side-by-side with the best products in the world but at considerably lower prices.”

Rizzo will be responsible for all aspects of product development and sourcing for private brands and for providing the fashion office with direction and a collaborative vision on key trends. He will also explore and develop new brand relationships for Off 5th.

In 2009, Off 5th rolled out a new private brand strategy that includes four distinct brands for men and women with different lifestyles. “The opportunity is to blow out the four lifestyles,” Rizzo said. It’s a range that includes “practically the full spectrum of men’s, from classic gentleman’s dress to weekday and weekend casual, to contemporary sportswear and jeans.”

Each brand features an expanded collection of apparel, accessories and footwear, and the range is from classic with a tailored fit to a more modern style.

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