By  on October 14, 2009

Amid a tough environment for selling designer clothes, the fall offensive at Saks Fifth Avenue goes on.

Within the last 30 days, six new shops opened on the second level of the Fifth Avenue flagship — Akris Punto, Agnona, Max Mara, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein Collection and Burberry.

Each has a distinctive decor that embodies the spirit of the respective collection. There are also about 100 mannequins on the floor, about 60 percent more than a year ago, and less inventory, having the combined effect of adding drama to the floor and making the merchandise accessible. The second floor is driven by sportswear, active lifestyle, career and casual dressing, items and knitwear. It ranks among the top three at the flagship in terms of productivity, behind the main level for cosmetics, accessories and fine jewelry, and possibly the third floor, which houses designer.

The Akris Punto shop is a new concept for the brand, marked by a fresco finish and a unique ceiling with a front arch reflecting the architectural feeling of the fashion. Agnona’s shop seems simple and chic, though filled with luxurious woods and leather, while Burberry plays on intrinsically British themes in a contemporary manner. Calvin Klein’s shop is clean and cool with luminous, white plaster walls and bright lighting. Donna Karan’s shop is marked by black polished walls, beige travertine floors and a large plasma wall playing the runway shows. And Max Mara’s space captures the earth tone look of the company’s Milan flagship.

The second floor, with its wood and faux wood common areas, wasn’t gutted and renovated like the recently unveiled third floor. Instead, the second floor has seen a flurry of shop construction over the past three years, helping to keep it current. An atrium is devoted to spotlighting new labels each week. “The floor is so open we can move things around and create new shops without gutting it,” said Suzanne Johnson, group senior vice president and general manager of the flagship.

When asked if Saks would overhaul the second floor if there was more money for capital improvements, a simple “no” was the response from Joseph Boitano, group senior vice president and general merchandise manager of women’s. Unlike the third floor, “We didn’t have as serious of an issue of being outdated. The floor has good bones,” Boitano said. “We are very happy with the layout. There’s an excellent traffic flow on the second floor that’s circular and great for the customer. And the atrium is very open. Some back-of-the house things still need work, but the central atrium and curved ceilings look great. We changed the flooring a few years ago. It gave it a whole new lift.

“We don’t consider it a different level [of fashion] than three — just another point of view on dressing,” Boitano added. “Our customers shop both floors. Today, people have different lifestyle needs. We want the second floor to have as much fashion excitement as the third floor. It’s not so much about price. It’s about sensibility of fashion.”

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