Saks.com is betting big on the 2021 holiday season.
Saks executives, sensing that shoppers are ready to dress up, go out and celebrate the holidays after hunkering down last year due to the pandemic, say the level of inventory on saks.com for the holiday season has doubled compared to 2019.
While Saks officials emphasize luxury fashion is still the “core” of the offering, a big part of the strategy revolves around pumping up children’s wear and gear, toys, activewear, ski, golf, swimwear, food, home goods and wellness, including weights, jump ropes and sauna blankets — products and categories that Saks has never carried before or that have been more like afterthoughts in past years.
Kids brands new to the assortment include Off-White, Palm Angels and KhrisJoy, while the children’s wear offerings from Burberry, Versace and Dolce & Gabbana have grown.
In home, saks.com has begun carrying Baccarat, Lladró, Fornasetti, Rapport London and Anissa Kermiche, while the offerings from Michael Aram, Wolf, Zwilling and Le Creuset have increased.
Swim, another category where there’s much room for growth, now includes the Juan de Dios, Bondi Born, Andrea Iyamah and Eres labels and an expanded array from Zimmermann, Camilla and Agua by Agua Bendita.
The women’s and men’s designer offerings — the bread and butter of the Saks business — have also been pumped up, Saks officials assured. New in ready-to-wear are the Casablanca, Nili Lotan, Good American and Christopher John Rogers brands, while there are enhanced assortments from Zimmermann, Valentino, Khaite and Oscar de la Renta.
In men’s, Hood by Air, Rhone, Casablanca and Moon Boot are new to the offering, while more styles from Purple Denim and Amiri are being offered, among others.
“We want to serve multiple aspects of our customers’ lifestyles and you will feel that when you are on saks.com,” Tracy Margolies, chief merchandising officer at saks.com, told WWD. “We are really taking this opportunity to solidify our positioning for all things luxury. This is a vast expansion to evolve and expand our total offering, but our curated fashion edit is at the core of everything we do.”
“Since the beginning of the year, our team has been working to prepare for the ever-important peak holiday season. As the year progressed, it became clear that customers would be ready to celebrate with gifts and gatherings — especially after last year’s curtailed holiday celebrations,” said Marc Metrick, the chief executive officer of saks.com, in a statement. “Knowing this, we went big this season, investing in an unmatched assortment of luxury fashion, beauty and lifestyle products. We’re ready to meet our customers’ holiday shopping needs and look forward to delivering all that they need for everyone on their list.”
Metrick and Margolies did not disclose the dollar amount of the holiday buy, other than saying that the level of inventory was 100 percent higher than the 2019 season and that there is greater “depth and breadth” in the assortment. The aggressive positioning for the holiday is in contrast to many other retailers (Neiman Marcus included) where inventories are lower this year due to conservative planning or supply chain disruptions.
Margolies explained that saks.com, in its efforts to broaden the assortment, has a “hybrid” approach to procuring merchandise that’s new to Saks. “There is a variation of business models on the site including wholesale and marketplace,” she said. “The customer shouldn’t feel any difference. The customer experience is going to be seamless.” Often marketplaces involve listing certain products and drop shipping in non-wholesale arrangements while other products are bought through wholesaling.
Saks.com launched its gift guide on Oct. 12, a week earlier than previous years, with the knowledge that consumers have been shopping for holiday gifts earlier than ever this year. “There is so much celebration going on already. We’ve seen an uptick in cocktail dressing,” said Margolies.
The guide, which is on the Saks website and app and in the Saks stores, has products across women’s, men’s and kid’s apparel and accessories; jewelry; beauty; fragrance and home. It also steps out with a new category: “once-in-a-lifetime experiences,” such as a weekend in New York City to view the Rockefeller Center tree lighting ceremony from the rooftop of the Saks Fifth Avenue flagship, or featuring your child in a photo shoot for Saks’ fall 2022 kids’ campaign. Purchases of Saks’ experiential gifts support mental health and the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS organization.
Early gift shopping has been spurred by retailers unleashing holiday campaigns and discount weeks, even months in some cases, sooner than in past seasons. Shoppers are also aware that inventory shortages will only get worse as time passes, and that the sooner they shop, the greater the chance they’ll be able to purchase the gifts they want before the supply runs out.
Saks officials said that part of the rationale for significantly boosting the holiday buy was to compensate for possible delays on receiving shipments. “There could be shortfalls and delays in receipts. But by buying a more significant amount of goods, Saks is in a position to deliver for customers,” said someone close to saks.com.
“Saks has always been about fashion, and they are obviously increasing fashion inventory as part of this strategy, but they are also able to expand in categories where maybe there hasn’t been a significant offering. They really want to align their luxury offering with categories that complement the Saks customer’s lifestyle,” the source added. Shifting the balance in the buy also enables Saks to be less wholly dependent on fashion and its vicissitudes.
Margolies, who oversees the buying and merchandising for both saks.com and the Saks Fifth Avenue fleet of 41 stores, made it clear that the doubling up on inventory for holiday 2021 pertains to saks.com, though the inventory allocation to Saks stores is up over 10 percent compared to holiday 2019.
“We have the stores covered,” Margolies said. “There is a strong gift offering in our stores as well. Stores remain vital to the Saks experience.”
Toy shops, including books, games and other gift-related merchandise, have been installed at Saks’ New York, Beverly Hills, Chicago and Houston stores, and there is — a European-inspired “holiday market” at the Saks Fifth Avenue flagship in Manhattan displaying home items and festive trimmings from Off-White, Fornasetti, Baccarat and other brands.
The saks.com holiday strategy is a byproduct of this year’s reengineering of Saks Fifth Avenue. The Hudson’s Bay Co., which is the parent of Saks Fifth Avenue, split the Saks store fleet and the Saks website into separate companies, and got Insight Partners, a venture capital and private equity firm, to make a $500 million minority equity investment in the Saks e-commerce business, valuing it at $2 billion.
The Saks website generates approximately $1 billion in sales, according to recent reports. HBC is rumored to be positioning saks.com for a public offering. As stand-alone companies, Saks Fifth Avenue’s e-commerce business is now known as simply Saks, and the 41-store Saks Fifth Avenue fleet is known as SFA, which remains wholly owned by HBC.
With more money, saks.com can be bolder with the marketing and buying, and can take a more scientific approach to learning about luxury consumers. Saks’ data and consumer insights team has created a “Saks Luxury Pulse,” the company’s first survey of luxury shoppers, officials said. From Oct. 15 to 19, Saks surveyed online 1,415 U.S. luxury consumers over age 18 who shop at Saks and have an average household income of at least $200,000, to gauge their attitudes on shopping, spending and fashion trends. Among the key findings:
• Eighty percent of consumers plan to spend the same or more than they did last year.
• A third of respondents started holiday shopping as early as October; 23 percent said they would start in shopping in November, before Thanksgiving.
• Forty-nine percent of the respondents said clothes and accessories are their most wanted items for gift giving and receiving, followed by beauty and fragrance at 35 percent.
• When picking the right gift, 47 percent plan to buy toys and games; 36 percent plan to buy gift cards, and 31 percent plan to buy clothes and accessories.
• In terms of holiday attire, 45 percent of luxury shoppers will purchase new clothing for gatherings, with 49 percent of those respondents embracing elevated casual looks for these occasions.