Byline: Rusty Williamson

DALLAS — Saks Fifth Avenue celebrated its 75th birthday by opening a plush store at the Galleria mall here — right in the heart of Neiman Marcus country.
Though Saks plans to cut inventory growth and store construction costs, there were no signs of this at the store christening Sept. 16, when the specialty chain staged a VIP cocktail party and formal gala Thursday night for 1,100 guests.
There were Erte-inspired stilt walkers, acrobats, jugglers, fortune tellers, a disco, Balinese shadow puppets and a retrospective of show-stopper dresses worn to the Academy Awards over the last few years. It was all for fun and a good cause — $1 million was raised that evening for the neuro-oncology center at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School here.
Saks expects to double annual sales in the mall to $60 million within a few years,to establish the unit as the sixth or seventh-highest volume site in the chain, said Philip Miller, Saks chairman and chief executive officer.
Miller added that two more Saks stores are planned for the Dallas area within five years. “Dallas is a hugely important market for us, and this store is the culmination of our strategy to service the underdeveloped Texas luxury market,” Saks’ Wayne Meichner, executive vice president of merchandising, said.
Saks has long felt that while Neiman’s has well served the market, there’s room enough for two luxury retail giants and that Saks could rope in up to $400 million a year in business in the state. Neiman’s has four stores in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, which has a population of about 4 million. Nordstrom also is expanding here, and several stores are on the planning boards. The Galleria, Saks officials note, is a top tourist attraction in Dallas.
The 175,000-square-foot Saks store here is designed in Art Deco residential style with silver leaf, cherry wood and limestone details for an elegant showcase for Saks’ merchandise.
It replaces a 17-year-old, 10,000-square-foot unit, also in the Galleria, that was cramped and badly needed a facelift. The new store ranks fifth in size among the 59 Saks Fifth Avenue stores.
In Texas, Saks also operates two stores in Houston, one in Austin and a women’s and a men’s store in San Antonio.
Women’s fashion dominates the Dallas store; it occupies more than 70 percent of the merchandising space, Miller noted, and there are several exclusives, including a Vera Wang bridal boutique; the By Terry makeup line from France, which sells lipstick for $70, and the Gilles Dufour ready-to-wear collection for Pierre Balmain.
Saks also sells Issey Miyake, John Galliano, Zoran, Thierry Mugler, Valentino, Richard Tyler and Jean Paul Gaultier.
The store emphasizes its “gold range” of apparel, priced between bridge and designer, including Strenesse Blue, Max Mara, Luciano Barbera, Vestimenta and Philosophy.