Byline: David Moin

NEW YORK — Suzanne Johnson has been promoted to president of the Off-Fifth outlet chain operated by Saks Fifth Avenue Enterprises, among other management changes announced Wednesday to strengthen the division.
Johnson, who was senior vice president and director of Saks Fifth Avenue’s 16-unit Southeast region, succeeds Ron Covin, who left the company about six months ago.
Also at Off-Fifth, Michael Wolkoff was promoted to senior vice president and general merchandise manager, serving as chief merchant, a new position. He was vice president and divisional merchandise manager. And Thomas Ormsby has been named senior vice president of finance and operations, up from vice president and controller.
In a key reporting shift, Johnson will report to Don Watros, executive vice president and chief administrative officer of Saks Fifth Avenue Enterprises. Watros’ other responsibilities include asset protection, finance and merchandise planning and allocation for SFA Enterprises. Previously, the president of Off-Fifth reported to Christina Johnson, chairman and chief executive officer of Saks Fifth Avenue. Watros reports to Christina Johnson.
“This is important change,” said Christina Johnson, who is not related to Suzanne Johnson. “It gives Don additional responsibility, allows me to focus on merchandising, marketing and stores and allows us to improve our organization structure for maximum effectiveness.”
The first Off-5th opened in February 1990 at Franklin Mills in Pennsylvania. Saks rapidly grew the division at about five openings a year to the current 52 stores. The units average 30,000 square feet but go from 10,000 to 45,000 square feet, and sell current and previous seasons’ merchandise at 40 to 70 percent off original prices.
There has been the perception that Saks has slowed Off-Fifth growth, but Christina Johnson said: “It’s not slowed, but not unlike full-line stores, there are just certain opportunities to continue to grow Off-Fifth relative to the type of center we choose to be in….We’ll probably look at two to three [openings] a year.
“Things have gotten progressively better since Sept. 11. Our outlet business mirrors what is going on in the full-line business.” She added that the division is “highly profitable.”
Aside from liquidating goods from SFA stores to help flow fresh product in, the outlets sell merchandise expressly bought for them. In the past six months, Christina Johnson said there has been an effort to raise the penetration of designer and bridge goods in the outlets.

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