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Eskenasi to Exit Saks Inc.

NEW YORK — Saks Inc.’s aggressive private label buildup is about to hit a roadblock. According to sources, Peggy Eskenasi, senior vice president in charge of private brands for the department stores, will announce her departure this...

NEW YORK — Saks Inc.’s aggressive private label buildup is about to hit a roadblock. According to sources, Peggy Eskenasi, senior vice president in charge of private brands for the department stores, will announce her departure this week.

She’s been in a critical role, considering Saks Inc. in just a few years has lifted its private label volume to 14 to 15 percent of its total volume, from the mid-single-digit level. Ultimately, the Saks Inc. department store group hopes to catch up to key competitors, such as Federated Department Stores Inc., where private label sales are closer to 20 percent of total volume.

Among the key women’s private labels at Saks Inc. are Relativity, Pursuits and Studio Works. The company has also been penning exclusive distribution agreements with such brands as Laura Ashley, Jane Seymour and Ruff Hewn over the last few years.

Eskenasi could not be reached to learn about her plans.

“I’m sure she can write her own ticket wherever she wants to go,” said Robert Kerson, an executive search consultant. “Private label grew significantly under her watch at Saks Inc., and it’s becoming a bigger piece of every retailer’s business. It’s where the margins are, and is part of what distinguishes them from the competition. Her design and product development skills are not easily replaced.”

The Saks Inc.department store group includes Parisian, Proffitt’s, McRae’s, Younkers, Herberger’s, Carson Pirie Scott, Bergner’s, Boston Store and 28 mall-based Club Libby Lu specialty stores.

Saks Inc. also operates Saks Fifth Avenue, where private label represents 4 to 5 percent of the volume, though officials have indicated that it represents a substantial opportunity for growth there too.

This story first appeared in the August 17, 2004 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.