By  on December 18, 2008

Men’s accessories are one of the bright spots in an otherwise challenging holiday shopping season, and Saks Fifth Avenue has jumped on the trend with three new shops dedicated to the category.

The boutiques opened last month in Beverly Hills, Las Vegas and Tysons Corner, Va., and already are having a positive impact on sales.

“It’s been a real home run for the business,” said Tom Ott, Saks’ senior vice president and general merchandise manager for men’s.

The largest shop, at 2,000 square feet, is in the company’s men’s store in Beverly Hills. That opened Nov. 5, followed by a 400-square-foot shop in Las Vegas on Nov. 20 and a 750-square-foot one in Tysons Corner on Nov. 27. The mix varies by store, but all three include enhanced jewelry, watch and sunglass presentations.

Brands in jewelry include the exclusive Scott Kay collection, along with David Yurman, John Hardy, Robin Rotenier and Tateossian in all stores, and Stephen Webster and It’s About Time in L.A. and Las Vegas.

In watches, D&G, Emporio Armani, Swiss Army and Breil are in all three shops, while Longines, Hamilton, Rado and Ernest Benz are in Beverly Hills. Top labels in sunglasses include Persol, Prada, D&G, Ray-Ban, Gucci, Emporio Armani and Giorgio Armani, Yves Saint Laurent, Dior, Tom Ford, Paul Smith and Oliver Peoples. Beverly Hills also carries Montblanc.

“We have the largest collection of Tom Ford sunglasses in L.A.,” Ott said. “We’ve also concentrated on Prada and Gucci in sunglasses and Scott Kay, which is the brightest spot we have in jewelry. And we see a real big opportunity in watches.”

Because of its size, the Beverly Hills store also includes a cuff link bar with 500 pairs on display.

In all stores, Ott said new cases were installed to better showcase the jewelry and watches. Additionally, sunglass walls were installed that “allow us to show the breadth of the assortment. Before, we were somewhat limited.”

Small leather goods and large bags are also given increased exposure in the shops, he said, noting “we’re now able to highlight brands in vignettes.”

Ott said the mix, for the most part, allowed the company to expand brands that already existed at Saks, but new brands were also “layered in.” These include Tod’s, Ernst Benz, Longines and Rado.

Men’s accessories is an area “that is often neglected in the larger department store arena,” added Ott. “Specialty stores do it well, but it generally requires an expertise in buying since you’re often dealing with small, artisan vendors.” And many department stores are not willing to make that investment.

There are no plans to open accessories shops in any other existing Saks stores in the near term, Ott said. “We would like to roll it out and some stores are under consideration, but we have nothing planned right now.”

Ott said the Beverly Hills store was chosen to spearhead the accessories program because it is considered the company’s West Coast flagship and the department had not had a significant facelift since the store opened in 1995. Men’s accessories do very well in the Las Vegas market “and the customer is there year-round. There are also a lot of tourists, who may not buy ready-to-wear but will pick up an accessory.” And Tysons Corner cried out for an update since that store had absolutely “zero accessories business since there wasn’t even one accessories fixture.”

Accessories and modern-contemporary apparel are among the top growth areas in men’s wear at Saks. Overall, men’s has been gaining in importance for the company.

In a recent interview, Ron Frasch, president and chief merchant, said men’s has been growing as a percent of sales and is weathering the economic crisis better than any other category.

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