By  on June 8, 1994

NEW YORK -- Saks Fifth Avenue's flagship store is going after a new customer with its renovated fifth-floor bridge and contemporary department.

The floor, with 23,000 square feet of selling space, was under construction for a year. It reopened at the end of April with polished white and gray marble and granite floors, white walls and a mixture of fluorescent and incandescent lighting that simulates daylight.

It is the last of the flagship's nine selling floors to undergo a major redesign, according to Larry Hill, Saks' senior vice president and general manager of the flagship.

"We really started by revamping the entire ready-to-wear allocation in the building," he said. "We made our second and third floors more pure designer and evening, we made the fourth floor career sportswear, the seventh floor is now dresses and bridge petites, and so forth."

The casual bridge market was the one area where Saks had been slow to respond "in terms of being a target area, a growth area," said Bill Lynch, director of merchandising for the flagship, "Now we're ready to take it on."

Hill added, "This [floor] assimilates all of our lifestyles. There's the couture customer buying jeans, the bridge customer buying her weekend wear. The store has become very easy for customers to read."

Designer casual bridge lines such as CK Calvin Klein, Company Ellen Tracy, Ralph by Ralph Lauren, DKNY and Adrienne Vittadini Sport form the core of the selling space, said Lynch.

"We've surrounded these designer collections with casual classifications -- swimwear, activewear, the casual shoe department," he said.

Other vendors -- several of them from Los Angeles -- include Max Studio, Eileen Fisher, C'est Duo, Susie Tompkins, Go Silk and Go Linen, Vivienne Tam, Tees Tease, Adrienne Vittadini, Laundry by Shelli Segal and David Dart. Most are not new to the store, said vice president and divisional merchandise manager Lynne Ronon.

"The resources that are new to this floor are more in the casual active area," said Ronon. "We had David Dart on the fourth floor, but our intention was always to move it up here, and the same with Max Studio."Ronon said that since the floor opened, sales in DKNY, CK Calvin Klein and Company have seen double-digit increases over plan for the year.

Saks' pick of hot trends will also be on the fifth floor, displayed in an area called the Atrium, near the escalators at the front of the department.

"We use the Atrium to express to our customer what's in," Lynch said. "Right now, dresses are a major growth area. We never would have had them on this floor before. We've had a white and silver shop in this area. Our next shop will feature shiny."

Ronon singled out the Los Angeles-based Cotton Stuff line, which includes activewear and casualwear, as one of the floor's hottest new resources.

"We have it exclusively, and it has been selling incredibly well," said Ronon. "It had been a men's resource, but we put them into the women's business. It's been phenomenal."

DKNY is another volume sales producer, said Lynch. The line has had sales increases of about 35 percent since the floor opened. He also said the OMO Norma Kamali active line sold 36 pieces in its first three days on the floor.

Ronon emphasized that there is no specific price range for the apparel. The least expensive line on the floor is Tees Tease, which specializes in fashion items and retails for around $30. The most expensive pieces will be in the leather area scheduled to open shortly, where outerwear will go as high as $600 or $700.

"We look at value," she said. "But we don't put ourselves into a box as far as dollars. It's more about attitude."

And while the floor plan seems to be fairly stable, so that shoppers will be able to locate their vendors week after week, Hill said there will probably be a shakeout period, adding, "I think there's still going to be some movement here until we settle in and say, 'This is the right spot for Vittadini,' for example."

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