Saks Fifth Avenue president Marc Metrick on Friday discussed the retailer’s rationale for some of its moves on the other side of the river to bolster the retailer’s position “as the unmatched leader for luxury.”
Metrick divulged that Saks will close its 107,000-square-foot unit at The Mall at Short Hills in Short Hills, N.J., in anticipation of opening a 131,906-square-foot store at American Dream, the three million-square-foot shopping and entertainment center rising in East Rutherford, N.J.
“We’re looking at the back of 2017 to the front of 2018 time frame,” Metrick said of Saks’ opening. Hudson’s Bay Co., which owns Saks, also signed leases for a 119,605-square-foot Lord & Taylor and 30,000-square-foot Saks Off 5th at American Dream.
“What we’re doing is closing one store and opening a very powerful store outside that market,” Metrick said. “When you build powerful centers with a reason for people to come and see things, they’ll drive a little farther.”
American Dream has an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to retail and entertainment. In addition to a luxury area, where Saks will reside, an off-price zone will feature Primark, Century 21 and Saks Off 5th. Some 500 inline stores will include Banana Republic, Zara and Victoria’s Secret. Those looking for diversions will find a Dreamworks-themed amusement park, water park, Big Snow America indoor ski slope, aquarium and NHL-sized ice skating rink, as well as a variety of dining options.
With American Dream in its sights, Saks in 2014 closed its store at The Shops at Riverside in Hackensack, N.J. Hermès also has revealed its defection from the The Shops at Riverside. The French luxury house plans to open an 8,000-square-foot store on two levels at the East Rutherford project.
Metrick said Saks is in the process of “drawing plans up and we are confident” of signing Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Fendi and Givenchy as four of the eight “large, powerful designer presentations we plan on doing. There will be very distinct branding. They’re technically all inside of the store but will have frontage and windows.”
American Dream will have everything “you read about department stores needing to create excitement and energy,” Metrick said. “It will be high end, delivered in a very new and modern way.”
Don Ghermezian, president of Triple Five Group, which is developing American Dream, said the center will draw 40 million people annually from the metropolitan Tristate area and as far as Philadelphia.
“The proximity to New York City will be unbelievable,” Metrick said. “All key markets of New Jersey are easily accessible. The amount of local and international traffic with people that will drive by that center after landing at Newark International Airport…”
Women’s apparel will focus on designer and advanced designer collections, and advanced contemporary sportswear. “It will be more avant-garde and more fashion,” Metrick said.
The store design will have “more of an open layout and free flow. We’re testing a lot of environments,” Metrick said. Fragrance will receive an elevated approach with brands in limited distribution. “I’m a believer that zone of business sets the tone for the store,” he said.
Saks’ signature 10022-Shoe department will be part of the lineup. Men’s categories will be lifestyle oriented with a big push for men’s footwear. Again, the focus will be on advanced designer and designer labels.
Asked how Saks will fare in an environment where families with small children will be clamoring for the amusements and budget shoppers will be hitting the off-price floor hard, Metrick was pragmatic. “We have to embrace the fact that the world is very small right now. You can shop online anywhere you want. We have an Off 5th on 57th Street,” he said. “There’s very little crossover of customers. If people are aspirational and want to experience luxury at Saks Fifth Avenue, it’s there for them. I don’t think anyone is a discount shopper or luxury shopper anymore. Everyone is just a shopper.”