Filling a key role with an insider, the Hudson’s Bay Co. has named Tom Ott chief merchant of its Saks Off 5th and gilt.com units.
Ott was senior vice president and general merchandise manager of men’s wear and concession at Saks Fifth Avenue, another division of HBC, where he spent 22 years of his career. HBC is expected to soon announce Ott’s successor at Saks.
HBC said Tuesday that Ott will drive the strategic direction and performance of all buying activities for Off 5th and Gilt, and that he will report to Jonathan Greller, president of Off 5th and Gilt.
“Tom’s background is in luxury and off-price retail. He also has significant experience across multiple categories,” Greller told WWD. “This crucial move highlights our confidence in our existing talent here at HBC. A big part of what we look at as a leadership team is succession planning and movement across the banners.”
Ott joined Saks in 1995 as buyer of men’s designer clothing and rose up to vice president and divisional merchandise manager of men’s tailored clothing, personal furnishings, home and food, before becoming a general merchandise manager and senior vice president. He also once worked at an off-pricer called Gentry Clothiers, serving as merchandise vice president, men’s furnishings and sportswear. He began his retailing career in 1988 as an executive trainee with Lord & Taylor.
Ott succeeds Kristen Sosa, who this week was named chief merchant of Olivela, a new luxury e-commerce site with a charity component.
A year ago, HBC integrated the planning, marketing and merchandising leadership teams for Gilt and Off 5th to gain buying power and share brands, as well as leverage Gilt’s mobile and personalization technologies and work to bring the Gilt brand into the physical space. Last year, Gilt opened its first and only brick-and-mortar shop, which is located inside Saks Off 5th on 57th Street between Lexington and Park Avenues in Manhattan.
Greller said the company is still considering opening additional Gilt shops inside Off 5th stores. He also said he was pleased with the integration of Gilt and Off 5th and that the company continues to fine tune its strategy to sell luxury off-price product. Last quarter, comparable sales declined by 6.8 percent at Off 5th and Gilt combined at a time when the off-price channel outperformed the overall market.
Between Gilt and Off 5th, “We don’t have a high overlap of customers. We do have a high overlap of product,” Greller said.
The team is working on a redesign of the Gilt web site, which will be relaunched in the fall. HBC is expanding Saks Off 5th in Europe as well as North America. The first Off 5th in Europe opened in June in Carsch-Haus in Düsseldorf, Germany. It’s a larger-than-average Off 5th space, with 37,674 square feet over five levels.
There are currently five Off 5th stores in Germany where HBC sees the potential to open up to 40 Off 5th units over the next three years. On Aug. 3, Off 5th opens in West Vancouver and Montreal, and this fall there will be Off 5th openings in East Hanover, N.J.; Bronx, N.Y.; Seattle, Wash., and West Hartford, Conn.