Saks Lingerie: New Life on Nine

NEW YORK — Everything is new when it comes to lingerie at the Saks Fifth Avenue flagship here: a new location; a fresh contemporary look, and a new divisional merchandise manager, Anne Caetano.<br><br>Unveiled in late August, the new ninth-floor...

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NEW YORK — Everything is new when it comes to lingerie at the Saks Fifth Avenue flagship here: a new location; a fresh contemporary look, and a new divisional merchandise manager, Anne Caetano.

This story first appeared in the September 30, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Unveiled in late August, the new ninth-floor area for foundations, daywear, sleepwear and at-homewear takes up 11,435 square feet, about the same square footage of its former home on the eighth level. Intimate apparel also shares real estate with hosiery, which is ensconced in 950 square feet at the back of the department. Formerly on the ninth floor were coats and swimwear, which are now housed on the eighth level. Petites continue to be on nine.

Caetano, who was named dmm of intimate apparel and hosiery in July, said the department reflects a fresh, modern image for established Saks customers who shop for sophisticated lingerie, as well as items that have a hip, edgier look for a new generation of younger Saks shoppers.

The move is apparently clicking for lingerie, according to Caetano.

“All of our [lingerie] businesses are experiencing double-digit increases, some above 28 percent. It has a lot to do with the new layout,” she said. “In the past, there was an imbalance of the business trend, where we saw foundations outperform sleepwear. Now, we’re starting to see sleepwear pick up.”

“We are exceeding our season plan by 10 percent in New York, based on the season trend. Contemporary [lingerie] business is up 65 percent against a year ago on an average.”

The new layout is highlighted by pale marble floors and wide aisles that wind around a number of spacious, uncluttered environments. The department is seamlessly segmented into areas dedicated to young contemporary, fashion-forward and traditional fare, and a boutique setting for the luxury Italian label La Perla.

Generating the most interest is a contemporary area that started out as an experiment and has proven to be a success, said Caetano. Instead of merchandising goods by specific category, the new 1,720-square-foot area showcases a mix of categories, including sleepwear; bras and panties; bustiers; daywear items such as bodysuits, camis and slips, and at-homewear separates. There are some 17 brands representing the various classifications, with many featured in multiple categories.

The diversity of brands include: Princesse Tam Tam, Christian Dior, Occhi Verdi, Chantal Thomass, Burberry’s, Eres, Mossimo, Escada, Samantha Chang, Frances Smily, Chiaruggi, Bella Sera, Leigh Bantivoglio, Lejaby, Aubade, Lise Charmel, Josie and Natori.

“We wanted to create an entirely new concept, a lifestyle environment for contemporary foundations, daywear and sleepwear in one area, and it’s been extremely successful,” said Caetano. “This room is making its mark. The whole contemporary business is such an emerging category at Saks. One thing we’ve heard from customers and sales associates is they didn’t realize we had this category at Saks. New product arrives daily and we have the flexibility of moving merchandise around because it’s multivendor.”

Regarding the customer profile for contemporary items, Caetano said: “She’s brand-conscious, but she’s looking for the look and buys into the image. She wants dual-purpose items, innerwear that can also be outerwear.”

Caetano said foundations and daywear by La Perla, which she called “our crown jewel,” was specifically housed in a separate boutique environment to achieve a “designer effect.”

“The La Perla room is very shallow and long like a runway. You can see all of the merchandise that way,” said Caetano, noting that Saks will introduce daywear by Malitzia in November, a secondary label produced by Bologna, Italy-based Gruppo La Perla.

Caetano also outlined other areas within the sprawling lingerie department, which house several foundation brands she described as generating lots of business: Chantelle, Wacoal, Donna Karan Intimates, Natori, Rigby & Peller and Le Mystere.

“Hanro [daywear and sleepwear] is looking very strong and it’s much more updated,” said Caetano. “We’ll be staging a Hanro retrospective on Oct. 7 with vintage pieces.”

The Hanro promotion, which runs through Oct. 13, will feature 25 Hanro originals in vitrines along the perimeter of the lingerie floor. A gift bag containing a free lingerie bag from Hanro, bath beads and the WWD Intimates magazine will be given to the first 100 customers at the event.

Other events will include a Donna Karan Body Spa promotion on Oct. 23 to 25, which will highlight the new line of yoga-inspired separates by Donna Karan Intimates. “Wellness Day” events include a massage therapist and yoga instruction. A promotion for the new Wacoal Touch microfiber intimates will run through this Sunday.

Michelle White, manager of foundations at Saks, noted that a recent book-signing event featuring clairvoyant Laura Bushnell with her book “You Are A Rose,” sparked a lot of customer interest.

“Her whole concept is about beauty, and it was a great tie-in with lingerie and beauty from the inside out,” White said.

Regarding the pace of traffic on the ninth floor, Stephen D’Urso, director of intimate apparel, hosiery and accessories at Saks, said: “It’s taking a little while to adjust. But the employee cafeteria is on nine and sales associates see the lingerie and suggest it to their customers. It’s been very busy.”

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