Saks Opens New Home on Michigan Avenue

The retailer is shining a spotlight on the modern and contemporary businesses at its relocated men’s department in Chicago.

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Saks Fifth Avenue is shining a spotlight on the modern and contemporary businesses at its relocated men’s department in Chicago.

This story first appeared in the January 23, 2014 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The retailer last week unveiled the results of a reported $5 million renovation of its store at 717 North Michigan Avenue, which brought men’s wear into the main unit. For 15 years, men’s had its own stand-alone store on North Michigan Avenue. That store closed Jan. 12.

“This is a brand new footprint for men’s,” said Tom Ott, senior vice president and general merchandise manager of men’s for Saks.

Although the men’s-only store had its own dedicated building, Ott said the square footage devoted to men’s is actually slightly greater in its new home on the sixth and seventh floors of the larger store.

He said the men’s-only store was a “late-Nineties-era” construction and was shaped like an inverted pyramid with the main floor the smallest and the second and third floors getting larger as they went up. “It was beautiful, but it didn’t show men’s the way we wanted,” Ott said.

Instead, the new department is “a microcosm” of the New York City flagship with classic brands on the sixth floor and contemporary designer and denim on the seventh.

On the sixth floor, featured vendors include Kiton, Brioni, Ermenegildo Zegna and Brunello Cucinelli as well as the newly added Salvatore Ferragamo collection. A new customized area houses Saks’ made-to-measure program and there’s a rotunda with an expansive new shoe shop that extends through an open ceiling to the seventh floor. The shoe department offers more than 500 styes including the newly added Brioni, Gravati, Pierre Cathay, Adidas’ collaboration with Raf Simons, Y-3 and Opening Ceremony. The overall aesthetic of the floor is one of a classic, clubby environment.

The seventh floor has more of an industrial feel and features newly added advanced designer sportswear collections from Givenchy, Dior, Y-3, Carven and Ami, as well as enhanced presentations for Alexander McQueen, Burberry London, Dolce & Gabbana, Etro, Versace and Z Zegna. Denim is also being revamped.

Later this month, a new restaurant called Sophie’s at Saks Fifth Avenue will open with a view of Michigan Avenue.

In addition, the men’s floors can be accessed by a new express elevator, Ott said. “Everything is merchandised by lifestyle,” he said. “It’s very luxurious and well-appointed.”

He said that in a move to “create a Saks point of view,” there are no hard shops in the men’s department, although there is signage for the major brands.

Ott said Chicago is “one of our top stores and with some lines is the number-one market outside New York. We have a rich heritage here in Chicago and our selling team is among the best in the country.”

And he’s expecting the business to improve in the new location. “We’ve always had a good classics business but we should be able to grow our modern and contemporary business,” he said. “That was stymied in the other store. This gives us the opportunity to be the premier men’s store on Michigan Avenue by differentiating us and giving us a unique point of view.”

Saks still operates men’s-only stores in San Antonio, Chevy Chase, Md., Beverly Hills, San Francisco and Palm Beach, Fla.

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