The two-level, 110,000-square-foot Saks Fifth Avenue store is modern and bright, with elbow room and sight lines clear across the selling floors. The merchandising is weighted toward designer handbags and men’s and women’s shoes, which have been the top-selling categories lately, while cosmetics, fragrances and men’s, women’s and kids’ fashions are offered as well.
Saks and other designer stores in The Avenue are betting on luxury being a draw in one of the nation’s largest and most unusual commercial developments: the American Dream complex. It’s in New Jersey’s Meadowlands, which isn’t the most scenic setting, though there are views of the Manhattan skyline from Saks and elsewhere, and it’s close to Midtown Manhattan, only about eight miles away.
Beyond The Avenue, the complex has a preponderance of moderate-priced, mainstream stores like Zara and H&M, and an array of large-scale, family-oriented entertainment and sports attractions like the indoor water park, ski slope, amusement park and aquarium. Whether those consumers shopping those stores, playing miniature golf or riding the roller coaster migrate in significant numbers to The Avenue for luxury shopping remains to be seen.
Saks previously operated two stores in the Garden State — a unit that closed in 2016 in the Mall at Short Hills and another that closed in 2014 in The Shops at Riverside in Hackensack.
“We have never opened in a center with a water park, but we have always been confident of our potential in New Jersey,” said John Antonini, senior vice president, director of stores for Saks. “I think our brand attracts a lot of different types of luxury customers and I think our location at The Avenue will attract people coming just to shop Saks. We also want to draw customers from the center, which we think will have a regional and national draw. Over time, we believe the center could attract tourists visiting New York City.”
Antonini said despite closing its two stores in New Jersey, Saks never lost its Jersey customer. Instead, they shop the Fifth Avenue flagship in Manhattan or other units in the 41-store fleet.
He said one reason for closing the Jersey stores was because customers weren’t pleased, though many indicated they would shop Saks locally again if the retailer had a better store with a lot of service and conveniences. It’s also believed Saks was incentivized by the developer to open at American Dream.
The store is laden with services, among them the Fifth Avenue Club for personal styling and shopping; a “shoe drop” for same-day shoe deliveries in New Jersey if a customer orders by 2 p.m.; customized skin and beauty consultations; appointments with beauty advisers in store or at customers’ homes; a Blo blow dry bar; a soon-to-open café, and a desk for pickups and returns. There is also valet parking, so those coming to American Dream strictly for Saks or other luxury stores in The Avenue can avoid the rest of the complex.
“Opening a new store or renovating an existing one is always an opportunity to challenge ourselves and to advance the Saks brand,” Antonini said. “Saks in The Avenue is an evolution of what we have done before, and any new store or renovation always is influenced by our Fifth Avenue flagship.”
He said the merchandising, though weighted toward certain categories, reflects what’s seen in the flagship and maintains the Saks point of view.
The store leads with luxury handbags on the first floor and has permanent Louis Vuitton windows on the exterior drawing customers into the Vuitton shop. The perimeter of the first floor is lined with designer handbag shops. Among the other handbag and accessory brands are MGM, Gucci, Bottega Veneta, Givenchy, Tory Burch, Christian Louboutin, Marc Jacobs and Chloé.
Among the store’s innovative features:
- Men’s and women’s sunglasses are displayed together and the assortment is large — more than 1,000 styles from such brands as Celine, Tom Ford and Chloé.
- Fragrance outposts for Jo Malone, Byredo and others rim the escalator, and overhead are decorative gold-plated rods luring shoppers up to the second-level housing designer, advanced designer and contemporary women’s labels including Balmain, Balenciaga, Azzedine Alaïa, Brunello Cucinelli, Akris Punto, Off-White and Palm Angels. Contemporary brands include Theory, Veronica Beard, Alice + Olivia and Cinq à Sept.
- Scattered through the selling floors are large, asymmetric sculptures tinted with colors reminiscent of the Rem Koolhaas escalator at the Manhattan flagship.
To celebrate its opening, Saks at The Avenue will host a charity shopping weekend with a percentage of sales benefiting the Women’s Rights Information Center through Sunday. The last Saks opening was in Calgary, Canada, in February 2018.