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The Vault on the lower level of Saks Fifth Avenue opened today, revealing a rich array of “high” fine jewelry and world-class watches and a fluid passage from the main floor for luxury handbags, sunglasses, soft accessories and travel.

“The customer will now truly be able to feel the connectivity between the lower level, the main floor and our second level for beauty. It’s really all one main floor,” commented Marc Metrick, president of Saks Fifth Avenue. “There’s visual connectivity and energy that flows through, from floor to floor.”

“We’re really seeing the whole building come to life. All that cross-shopping coming together is very exciting,” added Tracy Margolies, Saks Fifth Avenue‘s chief merchant.

That easy transition results from extending the Rem Koolhaas-designed escalator down to The Vault from the main floor, following its rise up to the beauty floor last February. The escalator, with its iridescent dichroic film coating in varying colors, is a centerpiece. It’s massive, and has replaced some of Saks’ productive selling space. Yet it creates an openness to the flagship setting, providing views to the floors above and below and beckoning shoppers to explore deeper into the store.

There’s also aesthetic continuity with the selling levels having perimeter designer shops, opaque terrazzo flooring and area rugs with colorful tones and patterns.

The 12,059-square-foot Vault, combined with the recently renovated fine fashion jewelry area on two, more than doubles the space Saks previously dedicated to jewelry, which had been relegated to the back of the main floor, like an afterthought.

“In the past, if you wanted to shop Graff, you had to walk through beauty and handbags, past thousands of square feet, before getting to jewelry,” Metrick said.

“Jewelry has never had the right representation in a luxury department store. Decades ago, we ceded the role of selling high fine jewelry to our customers. There’s a tremendous amount of opportunity.”

According to Boston Consulting Group’s “True-Luxury Global Consumer Insight” 2019 report, the personal luxury goods market is expected to reach $446 billion by 2025, of which jewelry and watches are expected to reach $151 billion.

The Vault makes a strong case for becoming what Metrick characterized as a “headquarters destination for high fine jewelry in New York City.” It offers more than 25 high fine jewelry and watch brands from around the world including six high fine jewelry shops-in-shop, averaging 500-plus square feet each, from Chanel, Chopard, Piaget and Graff and the first shops-in-shop from Boucheron and Repossi in the U.S.

There are also exclusive collections from Assael, Dena Kemp, Nini Jewels and Tabbah.

For The Vault, Saks buyers have assembled the store’s first true assortment of men’s watches, reflecting an effort, as Metrick said, to cast Saks as more of a shopping destination for men. There are eight vendor-designed watch shops: Baume & Mercier, Franck Muller, Hermès, IWC Schaffhausen, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Roger Dubuis, Tag Heuer and Vacheron Constantin.

Other brands on the floor are Adam Foster Fine Jewelry, Bulgari, Lorraine Schwartz, Martin Katz, Montblanc, Oscar Heyman, Piranesi, Robert Procop and Roger Dubuis,

“The Vault features a stunning selection of pieces, from diamond engagement rings and collectible men’s timepieces, to limited-edition and one-of-a-kind styles only available at Saks,” Margolies boasted.

She said The Vault offers “a high-touch experience” and an average price per item of $100,000, whereas the 8,465-square-foot fine jewelry department located on the east side of Saks’ second floor has an average price point of $7,500. High fine jewelry, she explained, isn’t about a price. “It’s the workmanship, the quality of the stones and the uniqueness of the stones.”

The Vault dedicates three-quarters of its space to jewelry and a quarter of the space to watches, which flank two opposite sides of the floor. Among the precious timepieces, the Roger Dubois 45-mm. rose gold case, double tourbillon handmade watch, priced $316,000, and the Piaget Polo diamond bezeled, diamond dial watch set in rose gold, priced $59,500. On saks.com, there will be monthly trunk shows for high fine jewelry and timepieces, and private digital events for top clients.

Among other features of The Vault:

• A 1,386-square-foot “International Lounge” providing a concierge service with multilingual associates, store tours, jewelry and watch repairs, and a convenient place to pick up packages or stow your luggage while you shop.

• An exhibition space to feature brands, guest curators and special collaborations. A Tiffany & Co. collection of white and colored diamonds and rare colored gemstones is on exhibit through September.

• Private view rooms for a more elevated shopping experience.

The Saks store planning and design team collaborated with the Gensler architectural and design firm to create The Vault, which was formerly storage space. A 2,600-square-foot section of the main floor was cut out to extend the Rem Koolhas escalator to The Vault, and a similar-size section of the second floor was removed to bring the escalator up to the beauty floor. The design motif is inspired by a bank — along the walls are sculptures of vault doors and safety deposit boxes, as well as metallic textures and leather accents.

The Vault is considered a major step in furthering the grand, multiyear redevelopment of the 646,000-square-foot Saks flagship. So far, the main floor for luxury handbags; fine jewelry, beauty, fragrance and wellness on two; designer collections on three and four; The Collective and The Advance on five for contemporary fashion, and men’s shoes on six have all been redone. In addition, L’Avenue at Saks, the upscale Parisian-style restaurant and bar designed by Philippe Starck, was created on eight and nine.
Renovations in women’s shoes on eight are in progress; men’s wear on six and seven will be renovated in 2020, and details on concepts for floors nine and 10 will be divulged later. According to Saks executives, the flagship is about 70 percent renovated and the cost of the project is running above the original $250 million budget, though not by a huge amount.
The flagship, located between 49th and 50th Streets, accounts for about 20 percent of Saks’ total volume and four years ago was appraised at $3.7 billion, well above the $2.9 billion that the Hudson’s Bay Co. paid for all of Saks the year before. The renovations could further raise the value of the site.

All aspects of Saks’ New York flagship “Grand Renovation” are integral pieces of its new business model, creating what Saks executives envision as an ultimate luxury shopping destination in New York City, one that takes a holistic view of the flagship, with connectivity, easy vertical transportation, new experiences and partnerships with brands and designers.

Saks could incorporate elements of The Vault into other store locations, and Saks does operate a freestanding jewelry specialty shop in Greenwich, Conn., called The Vault at Saks. It opened in 2012. Saks hasn’t duplicated The Vault in a freestanding format, but Metrick said it could one day, possibly in Los Angeles, though there are no plans.

 “The Vault is quite unique,” said Mimi Hajibay, president and designer of Piranesi, who attended Wednesday’s launch. “You can experience the crème de la crème. Saks has opened a new chapter in jewelry buying.”

“I love riding the escalator, but even when you get to the Vault, you still feel like you are on the main floor,” said Benjamin Comar, chief executive officer of Repossi.

Asked what the name Vault suggests, Metrick replied, “It denotes luxury, and really represents the feeling we are trying to create — an intimate, personal and unique environment. Almost every jewelry purchase is a memory. Every single element of The Vault has been thought through.”

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