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Kate Oldham Shares a Glimpse Into the Future of Saks’ Flagship

Oldham elaborated on Saks' plans to renovate its Fifth Avenue flagship — a three-year process expected to cost $250 million.

The Saks Fifth Avenue flagship you see today won’t be the same three years from now, according to Kate Oldham, senior vice president and general merchandise manager of beauty, jewelry and home. Oldham said that Saks is investing $250 million to renovate its flagship in order to create what it deems to be the ultimate shopping experience.

The first of Saks’ forthcoming renovations had its big reveal on May 22. The flagship unveiled its new beauty floor, which moved up one level, where jewelry also lives.

In her talk, Oldham laid out six key points that are shaping Saks’ business — and luxury businesses at large — today: uniqueness, individuality, quality, experiences, personalization and immediacy. The beauty floor, she said, is an indicator of the renovations coming to the rest of the store over the next few years.

“If you need to pick up a lipstick, I’m not sure Saks is the first place you think of anymore,” she said. “You can find makeup and lipstick at Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie. They have beauty advisers at Target and at CVS. We have amazing competitors with Ulta and Sephora. There’s a place for everybody, but we feel we need to give the customer a little bit something different.”

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And with a plethora of online retailers, Saks is focusing on providing experiences that will make its store a destination.

The new in-store beauty experience includes Saks’ fixturing with 35 shops on the perimeter, 16 of which are the first iteration of their kind in New York. The store has doubled its space in fragrances and added a beauty concierge, an event space and an apothecary featuring new brands and emerging categories such as wellness and ingestibles.

Beauty advisers will interact with customers differently, as they are now trained to advise on multiple brands as opposed to one and are expected to inform the client on what is new and up and coming.

Technology is integrated throughout, with the shops foregoing traditional signage and instead opting for video screens that can play a brand’s latest campaigns. There are also technology-enabled mirrors where you can test out lipstick shades without physically applying the product. Perhaps the most advanced technology is the escalator.

Opening in February of 2019, the escalator will sit below a 3,000-square-foot screen-slash-art installation. The escalator will be iridescent to reflect the lights and colors of the screen. Oldham called it a “beacon to bring people up from the first floor onto our second floor.”

It used to take a lot of time to develop a brand,” Oldham continued. “We’d bring it in, we’d nurture it and in about seven years, we’d have a booming business. Now the expectation, it’s in a minute. It’s like living in dog years.”

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