In two key appointments, Saks Off 5th has named Molly Taylor chief merchant and Kate Brems senior vice president of planning.
Taylor, who joins Saks Off 5th on Nov. 16, for the last year and a half served as the chief merchandising officer at Century 21, which is liquidating its stores and going out of business.
Before Century 21, Taylor was vice president and divisional merchandise manager of women’s apparel at Nordstrom Rack, where she worked on the launch of Nordstromrack.com in 2014 and grew the online penetration of that business.
Taylor’s past experiences at those two off-price chains and her relationships in the markets will be particularly beneficial to Saks Off 5th, which has been on a mission to expand its designer and brand offerings. Taylor began her 30-year merchant career at Macy’s.
“There is merchandise out there,” Taylor told WWD. “Getting it depends on our tenacity and speed in the market, to really chase and pivot,” said Taylor.
In the fashion markets, “Relationships matter regardless of the channel, but they particularly matter in the off-price channel.” Vis-à-vis vendors, “We want to be their first call. We want to be able to pick the best stuff and continue building relationships.”
Currently at Saks Off 5th, the off-price division of the Hudson’s Bay Co., the chief merchant responsibilities are being handled by two senior vice presidents and general merchandise managers — Christine Merrick for men’s, kids’ and footwear and Allison Ross for women’s apparel and center core. The last person to hold the title of chief merchant at Saks Off 5th was Tom Ott, who left the business in August 2019.
Taylor will report to Paige Thomas, chief executive officer of Saks Off 5th. Taylor and Thomas worked together at Nordstrom Rack. “She is a mentor,” said Taylor.
“As Saks Off 5th remains focused on being an agile and innovative luxury off-price retailer, it is essential we have a variety of experiences and backgrounds on our leadership team to drive our business forward,” said Thomas. “We have been focused on evolving our merchant and planning organization, from our structure to shifting our buying strategies, all to ensure we are tailoring our business to how customers really want to shop and build their wardrobe.”
Brems also joins Off 5th on Nov. 16. She most recently worked at PVH Corp. as senior vice president, head of merchandise planning, operations and digital sales and was a member of the senior leadership team for Izod and Van Heusen men’s sportswear brands. Brems began her career at Saks Fifth Avenue, where she held roles of increasing responsibility in buying and planning, culminating in senior vice president, head of omnichannel merchandise planning. After Saks, she was vice president, head of sales and merchandising at Theory. Brems will also report to Thomas.
This year, Off 5th has been busy recruiting talent, including Thomas, who joined the off-price chain in February, as well as naming Rob Brooks chief customer officer — he formerly held a corporate human resources role at HBC — and Stefen J. Welch, who this month became divisional vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion.