SAKS SEES ONLINE SALES NEXT YEAR

Byline: Adam Blair

NEW YORK — Saks Inc. plans to launch online sales in the first quarter of 2000 and use its catalog division’s support services and distribution center to sell product via the Internet, according to William Haslam, president of Saks’ E-Strategies Group, based here.
“Our initial effort [with online sales] will be with the Saks Fifth Avenue brand,” said Haslam, in an interview last week. His E-Strategies group also has responsibility for Saks’ catalog sales.
The Birmingham, Ala.-based Saks Inc. operates stores under banners including Proffitt’s, Younkers, Parisian, McRaes, Carson Pirie Scott and Saks Fifth Avenue.
“We will combine the resources of our catalog operations and our e-commerce activities into a direct response entity and integrate it appropriately with our physical businesses,” according to a statement from Saks Inc. chairman and chief executive officer R. Brad Martin. The company maintains an informational web site at http://www.proffitts.com, but does not currently sell product through the site.
Online sales will be fulfilled through the catalog division’s distribution center in Aberdeen, Md., said Haslam. He did not provide specifics about the range of products that the e-commerce site would offer.
“There are a lot of ideas about the functionality of the site, and we’re seeing which ones make sense to incorporate,” he said.
Several of the nation’s best-known department store chains, including Federated Department Stores and Nordstrom, have already launched e-commerce sites.
Martin noted the growing importance of the Internet for such retailers. “The direct response and e-commerce initiatives of our company are strategically important, and I believe they can create substantial value for our shareholders and benefits for our customers in the years ahead,” he said.

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