Byline: David Moin

NEW YORK — Gary Witkin, vice chairman of Saks Fifth Avenue, is leaving the company to become president and chief operating officer of Service Merchandise, the $4 billion catalog showroom operation based in Nashville.
Due to Witkin’s departure, Philip Miller, chairman and chief executive officer of Saks, will take on additional duties overseeing the stores, with regional senior vice presidents and the senior vice president of the clearinghouse division reporting to him.
Saks president Rose Marie Bravo will add marketing and special events to her merchandising duties. Marketing and special events were previously handled by Miller.
“We have a full office of principals and will be activating the organization in a different way,” Miller said. “I will have closer involvement with the stores,” he said.
Witkin’s departure has also triggered two promotions of senior-level officials and a realignment of some responsibilities. Brian Kendrick, executive vice president, has been named vice chairman and will continue as chief financial officer, but with human resources now reporting to him.
Owen Dorsey, senior vice president, has been named executive vice president over selling services and the Fifth Avenue Club, a new position.
At Saks, Witkin’s responsibilities primarily included store planning, construction and operations, and customer development.
“This is a significantly broader role for me,” Witkin said Monday, noting that he will oversee all merchandising, marketing, store operations and human resources in a company that’s more than three times the size of Saks.
Witkin joined Saks Fifth Avenue in September 1992 and was recruited by Miller, who worked with Witkin at Saks, Neiman Marcus and Marshall Field’s.
“I’ve worked with Philip for the better part of my career,” Witkin said. “That’s making it hard for me to leave.”
At Service Merchandise, he will report to Raymond Zimmerman, founder and chairman. Witkin said he will have a “significant” equity position in Service Merchandise and is expected to sell back his stock in Saks. “This is the next logical step in his career, giving him full profit and loss responsibility,” said Hal Reiter, president of Herbert Mines, Associates, an executive search firm. “He’s also strategically minded, if the company needs to adapt its merchandising operations.”
Though considered an operations executive, he has merchandising experience as a divisional merchandise manager at Neiman Marcus from 1978 to 1983, handling women’s accessories and men’s wear. Subsequently, he became Neiman’s executive vice president of stores, president of Marshall Field’s, executive vice president of Dayton Hudson department stores, and joined Saks in September 1992.
Witkin’s last day at Saks is Nov. 18. He will join the 405-unit Service Merchandise on Nov. 28, filling a slot that’s been open for several years.
Service sells jewelry, its biggest volume category, as well as small electrical appliances, electronics, luggage, toys, gifts, furniture and sporting goods. Shoppers can select some of the merchandise right off the selling floor. Other goods are written down on order forms and sent up from on-site storage facilities. The catalog is primarily used as a marketing tool.

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