By  on September 9, 2005

NEW YORK — Betting that significant growth rates in the men's prestige grooming category are more than a bubble, Saks Fifth Avenue is one of the latest retailers building up a men's grooming area separate from the main beauty floor.

First, Saks created a 1,000-square-foot men's grooming space last fall on the seventh floor of its Fifth Avenue flagship here, a primary location for most of the men's products merchandised there.

Now, the chain has partnered with stylist and barbershop-salon proprietor John Allan Meing to open a 1,500-square-foot concept also in the seventh floor's men's department, a shop inspired by the so-called John Allan's "clubs" on 46th Street and Trinity Place in Manhattan.

"I said, ‘We have to have it,'" Saks' president and chief operating officer Andrew Jennings noted during a recent interview, discussing his reaction during a visit to a John Allan's club. Jennings said he thought: "It's an innovative and unique concept, so let's test it in our flagship store.

"It's the ultimate experience," Jennings said of the planned Saks-John Allan's concept, "an area of discovery where a guy can come and have a complete makeover [including] hair, nails and pedicure in a clubby environment."

The space at Saks, which occupies converted stockroom areas, is set for a soft opening during the third week of September, then for an official unveiling during the second week of October.

The space will feature six chairs, including one located in a private room. A separate treatment room will offer facials and pedicures, and shampoo, conditioning and cutting services will be available.

One highlight of the John Allan's space at Saks will be an 800-square-foot area called the "closet," which will be manned by a store employee amassing apparel from multiple categories, styles and labels for clients while they receive services.

Just don't call it a personal shopper.

"I call it a personal service rather than a personal shopper," said Allan, who typically drops his Meing surname. "Men aren't into personal shoppers."

A database will record customer information, such as measurements and birthdays. "We'll expertly deliver personalized style to our customer," Jennings remarked. "It's a great, natural fit for us."

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