The retailer has committed to stop selling products made using animal fur through a phased approach by the end of fiscal 2022 which is Jan. 28, 2023. This includes both brand partner and private label merchandise sold online and in the Saks Fifth Avenue stores.
“Across the Saks Fifth Avenue experience, we evaluate a number of factors when making decisions about our assortment, including customer preferences and societal shifts. We recognize that trends constantly evolve, and that the sale of fur remains a significant social issue. As such, eliminating it from our assortment is the right step for us to take at this time,” Tracy Margolies, chief merchandising officer of Saks, said in a statement Wednesday.
With this decision, Saks Fifth Avenue will eliminate the sale of products made from animals that were raised for the use of their fur or those made with fur from wild animals. Shearling, goatskin, cattle hide, down, feathers, leather and faux fur products will continue to be sold online and in stores.
Saks Fifth Avenue plans to close all of its fur salons by the end of fiscal 2021, which is Jan. 29, 2022. The luxury retailer also indicated that it will work closely with vendor partners to phase out the sale of fur products both online and in stores by the end of fiscal 2022.
Saks has 27 locations with fur salons. Some are hard shops; others occupy smaller sections on the selling floors. Among the Saks locations with fur salons are New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Beverly Hills, Calif.
Many major designer brands that sell at Saks Fifth Avenue and other upscale retailers have already committed to stop using fur in their collections, including Gucci, Michael Kors, Donna Karan, Coach, Phillip Lim, Stella McCartney, Prada, Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger.
Other retailers too have banned the sale of fur, responding to pressures from consumers and such organizations as PETA and the Humane Society. Macy’s Inc. discontinued selling fur at its Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s stores last February. Nordstrom has also decided to ban furs. Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman continue to sell furs.
At Saks, it is believed that the discontinuation of fur will not have a significant impact on the store’s overall business, and that the buying team sees more than enough alternatives.
The decision by Saks to drop fur received strong reaction — pro and con.
Mike Brown, head of sustainability and communication with the Natural Fibers Alliance, suggested finding fur alternatives leads to the greater use of pollution-causing materials and pressures to drop wool and leather products. The NFA describes itself as “a newly formed environmental justice coalition” that represents the interests of wool, leather, fur and other naturally produced materials.
“Progressive fashion involves the use of all natural fibers — not plastic-based synthetic ‘faux’ materials, which are a major source of pollution,” Brown said. “Anti-fur pledges like the ones made by a few department stores merely invite more pressure from activists to stop selling leather and wool. Instead of shutting the door to natural materials, forward-thinking companies should adopt standards such as FurMark, a science-based certification for animal welfare and sustainability.” Brown said the NFA looks forward to continued conversation with Saks through the year.
International Fur Federation chief executive officer Mark Oaten said, “The decision to stop selling fur at Saks makes no sense at a time when the world of fashion is trying to become more sustainable and stop the endless use of chemical-based cloths. Saks should continue to sell natural fur as it’s one of the few truly sustainable fashion items.” Oaten contended that Saks followed the agenda of anti-fur activists, and therefore would have to ban wool, leather and silk, though Saks said its decision was based on customer preferences and societal shifts.
Applauding the luxury retailer’s move to drop fur from its assortment, Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, said, “Saks Fifth Avenue’s fur-free announcement is a game changer. Clearly consumers no longer want animal cruelty in their wardrobes, and credit to Saks for recognizing that the future of luxury is about innovative alternatives that are better for animals and the environment. More and more brands and companies are adopting fur-free policies and it’s only a matter when, not if, the few remaining fashion brands will catch up with this new standard.”
PETA president Ingrid Newkirk, citing “determined campaigning” by PETA and the Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade, said, “May [Saks’] fur salons rest in pieces, for they won’t be missed by today’s shoppers who no longer find it acceptable to drape themselves in an abused animal’s stolen skin.” PETA also opposes wool and leather in the belief that those industries abuse animals.
Newkirk noted that there have anti-fur protests outside Saks Fifth Avenue stores in Beverly Hills, Miami and San Francisco organized by the Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade, and outside Saks in Manhattan led by PETA.