Byline: Marc Karimzadeh

NEW YORK — Saks Fifth Avenue is giving its jewelry department a fine new setting.
Tonight, the store will celebrate the opening of the new department, just in time to get in on the important holiday selling season. Saks executives hope it will generate additional traffic and sales and soon become the city’s top destination for jewelry customers.
For the past two years, SFA’s 650,000-square-foot flagship has been undergoing a dramatic top-to-bottom overhaul. The new jewelry area is a major step forward in the upgrade.
“Even though it’s been a difficult period for all retailers, it’s probably one of the best times to do this,” said Gail Pisano, executive vice president. “Business will pick up again and we will be ready for it.”
The new jewelry department is located at the back of the store in the former men’s furnishings department, which was relocated to the sixth floor. It is divided into two main areas, fine jewelry and watches and fashion jewelry — the latter of which consists of costume and sterling silver designs — and selling space has grown from 5,700 to 7,400 square foot.
Fine jewelry can be accessed from 49th Street, while costume jewelry opens to 50th Street. Both have entrances by the elevators and are adjacent to the escalators. “We call that a highly accessible department,” Pisano said.
Prior to renovation, jewelry was positioned with all other accessories on the large main floor. It was mostly spread apart with several stations and little apparent linear coherence between fashion and fine jewelry.
“There was no particular atmosphere before, we were just part of the large main floor,” Pisano noted. “Our goal was to create a special and unique environment that would highlight our designers.”
Pisano explained that, for the last eight years, the store registered increases from 15 to 25 percent annually in the area.
“This sent out a message to management that in order to take the business to another level, we needed an environment to showcase the best to our existing customers, as well as our new customers,” she said.
Each area is well-lit and features cherry wood cases, with glass displays set into the wooden walls.
“One of the good things about the new floor is that we can segregate areas for costume, sterling and semiprecious,” said Barbara Lipton, vice president and divisional merchandise manager for sterling silver and fashion jewelry. “That way, we can really merchandise each resource to its best advantage.”
The costume and sterling silver areas feature vendors such as John Hardy, Lagos, Michael Dawkins, Robert Lee Morris, Barry Kieselstein-Cord and Lisa Jenks. There are also resources new to Saks, such as Nava Zahavi and M&J Savitt.
Customers entering the department through 50th Street will find an oval display station featuring current trends by designers such as Chan Lu, Alexis Bittar and Gerard Yosca.
“It is important to pull trends together as a statement so it’s easier for customers to shop,” said Lipton.
The fine jewelry and watches department features lines such as David Yurman, Pasquale Bruni, Seidengang, Mikimoto and Roberto Coin.
There is also a separate estate jewelry section, which is set apart from the main department to give it a more private, salon-like feel.
“We always had estate before, but it seemed hidden,” said SueAnn Newberg, vice president and dmm for fine jewelry and watches. “Now, we have an understated environment with a little more privacy to set it apart with a viewing room and sit-down cases.”
Watches on offer include Corum and Tag Heuer, and Chopard and Bulgari line a walkway that leads into a Cartier store-in-store designed to resemble the jewelers’ boutiques. The 490-square-foot unit is Cartier’s only boutique within a specialty store in the U.S. and sells fine jewelry, watches, leather goods and other accessories.
For the opening, Saks is hosting a party and silent auction to benefit Save Venice Inc., in conjunction with Young Friends of Save Venice. Several jewelers, including Carolee, Corum and John Hardy created one-of-a-kind fantasy masks for the auction.

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