By  on June 13, 2006

NEW YORK — In a must-win season, Saks Fifth Avenue will take a strong stand behind 21 key looks and build an entire fall campaign around them, called "Want It."

The promotion will encompass advertising, shopping bags, catalogues, even original collages that depict the products in witty ways. Saks' "must-haves" — from Chanel's sexy deep-red lipsticks to Gucci's skinny-legged jeans and Missoni's sweater jackets — will be played up chain-wide starting Sept. 13 when "Want It" kicks off.

The 55-unit, $2.7 billion Saks has been struggling with poor sales and margins, but has been developing strategies that hopefully will kick in beginning with the promotion.

At a press conference on Monday at Saks announcing the campaign, Andrew Jennings, president and chief operating officer, said the initiative represents "the start of seeing the sales curve ticking up," and is "a key tenet" of the Saks business strategy. "It focuses on a broad range of our customers and offers key fashion trends in an array of price points and styles."

The promotion dovetails with the overall Saks strategy, which concentrates on "good, better, best" pricing and "classic, modern and contemporary" merchandising.

There also is a revival of private label in the works that seems geared to capture customers that Saks may have lost and fill merchandise voids. After a year's absence, private label returns to the store beginning in early August when the Saks Fifth Avenue Signature collection will bow, followed in November by Saks Fifth Avenue Classic and Saks Fifth Avenue Sport collections.

The merchandising program involves what Saks' vice chairman and chief merchant Ron Frasch called capitalizing on Saks' "sweet spots." He pointed to an expanding bridge business, which has casual and "modern" components at Saks. "We're identifying all kinds of businesses where we excel and enhancing our matrix on a store-by-store basis," Frasch said.

In the casual bridge zone, Frasch cited Escada Sport, Eileen Fisher, Ellen Tracy and Dana Buchman as among the key labels. In the modern zone, he mentioned Tory Burch and Tahari as among those brands exhibiting a "little more fashion motivation to them."

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