Saks Downtown Rumors Gain Steam

Brookfield The rumors that Saks Fifth Avenue has designs on the Financial District took on a lot more credibility today as The Wall Street Journal reports of a comprehensive plan to bring not only a full line Saks store but also an Off Fifth outlet unit and headquarters for all of corporate parent Hudson's Bay Co. U.S. operations to the neighborhood. The Journal notes that negotiations are ongoing and could still fall apart, but the landlord in all cases would be Brookfield Office Properties Inc., and the proposed Saks Fifth Avenue store would be, as previously reported, placed at the Brookfield Place luxury retail complex at what was previously known as the World Financial Center. The Off Fifth would take over the Brooks Brothers store at  One Liberty Plaza which Brookfield also controls. The office space for Saks, Saks Off Fifth, Hudson's Bay and Lord & Taylor would comprise collectively a whopping 400,000 square feet, making this a substantial real estate deal by anyone's standards.

What would this mean for downtown shopping? For the new luxury shopping district downtown that is being created where there was never one before, a full line Saks would serve as strong anchor that would benefit all the designer boutiques expected to open not only in Brookfield Place, but also nearby in the new World Trade Center towers. It would also likely be the only instance of both a Full Saks and a Saks Off Fifth being separated by only a few city blocks. Typically, retailers like to keep a healthy distance between their main stores and their more downscale outlet divisions, but the compact nature Manhattan's cityscape makes that less of an issue. At One Liberty Plaza, Off Fifth would compete directly with the newly expanded Century 21 flagship which is arguably the city's top off-price fashion retailer. The Journal reports that all parties would like to close the deal before the end of the Summer, so some sort of confirmation one way or another should be coming in the next few weeks. Stay tuned.

Saks Looks to Expand Downtown (Wall Street Journal)
Rumors Now Have Saks Heading To The Financial District


Now Is The Time To Hit
The Department Store Sales

At this time of year, we here at The Shophound HQ can get immersed in keeping up with the ever-expanding plethora of sample sales that are going on right about now —so much so that we sometimes forget that the best shopping in the city is still often found in its unparalleled luxury department stores. Instead of running from one dusty showroom and sale facility to another, you can often maximize your shopping efficiency in the city's legendary retailers, Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys New York and Bergdorf Goodman, who have all taken second reductions this week. Our friends at the Madison Avenue Spy, who always have one keen eye focused on mid- and uptown shopping and sales, have made a handy chart telling us who is on sale right now and by how much.


Leave it to them to boil things down to the three stores that really matter in terms of designer shopping. The above three are the ones who tend to mark a price tag and stick with it —to a point— and also have the widest assortment of desirable designer labels. Bergdorf Goodman is on its second markdown at 60% Off for men's and women's apparel which is typically the final one. Women's shoes and handbags are at 50% Off, which could go down further, but may not.

Barneys is at 60% off in pretty much every department except children's (Do we care about children's? Maybe you do). Don't look for further reductions or an extra percentage off. Do not wait for the Warehouse Sale. They are not happening anymore. Any leftover merchandise will be shifted to the Warehouse Sale online store where extra promotional reductions will happen periodically, but usually without notice. It's also worth noting that it is the 21st century, and Barneys is still marking its sale tickets with red ballpoint pens like a neighborhood mom and pop shop. This can leave room for human error in either your or their favor, so make sure you double check those ticket prices before buying.

Over at Saks, reductions range from 50% to 60% off which is OK, but its seasoned sale shoppers know that this is just an interim reduction until the big consolidation final sale next month. Price tags will not be marked further, but there will be a sizable opportunity to take a hefty extra percentage off those tags when the time comes, bringing savings down to 70% Off or more.

While Bloomingdale's (not listed above) does carry some serious designer brands on certain floors, discounts tend to vary from day to day and special event sales add and subtract additional discounts at random. They are always worth a look on holiday weekends (July 4th coming up) which tend to be extra promotional, but it's good to know at what rate competitors are on reduction before you invest.

So there you have it. If you are sick of trotting from Sample Sale to Sample Sale, don't forget about our department stores. They have great deals right now and also, not insignificantly, private dressing rooms, convenient rest rooms, shipping services and reasonable return policies.

Where You'll Find the Best Deals (Madison Avenue Spy)


Rumors Now Have Saks
Heading To The Financial District

BrookfieldNews about stores heading to various locations underconstruction in the Financial Disrtrict is dominating this week's retail news. This time, it's Saks Fifth Avenue that is said to be close to signing a lease to anchor Brookfield Place's upcoming retail complex in what was formerly known as the World Financial Center on the West Side Highway (rendering at right). Though nothing has been confirmed, the rumor is featured in a front page article in WWD, which lends it more credibility than some other publications might be able to offer. The surprise here is that nobody thought there was enough room in the complex to accommodate the full-line Saks store that is expected to be announced. According to WWD, Saks would combine two separate spaces, of 20,000 and 25,000 square feet and possibly add more. If a full-sized Saks branch were to open downtown, it would make it the first major department store with two full locations in Manhattan if it can beat Barneys return to its original Chelsea home which is still a few years off. Bloomingdale's in SoHo, in contrast, is a specialty concept store that presents only select departments from its regular assortments, excluding the home collections and many apparel departments that are typically found in its branch stores.

This rumor is more convincing than some others because the chain's new owner, Hudson's Bay Company, is eager to exploit its new property, and its new president, Marigay McKee has been emphatic about building up Saks' luxury quotient. What better way way to showcase that than with a brand new, high profile store in New York City. That's not all the Saks has planned for the neighborhood, however. It is reportedly planning its first Off 5th outlet store east of Vesey Street that would compete directly with Century 21's recently expanded and upgraded flagship a few blcks across town. While the area has a long history of discount shopping, it is still unproved as the kind of luxury shopping area that is currently being built and aggressively marketed to potential tenants. Though it probably wouldn't be ready to open by next Spring when Brookfield Place's retail complex is expected to open with signed stores like Hermès, Ferragamo and Zegna, a powerhouse anchor like Saks could ultimately attract shoppers in a way that a collection of boutiques cannot, which would go a long way toward establishing the Financial District as a real (as opposed to potential) shopping destination. Expect to hear a lot more about Saks and other proposed arrivals to the area in the coming weeks.

Saks Fifth Avenue Eyeing Downtown Store Location (WWD)


Sale Shopping At Saks Is Relaxed...
Until You Get To The Shoes

It has been years since The Shophound went shopping on the day after Christmas —mainly because it can easily top Black Friday insane, aggressive bargain grabbing even in the most exclusive of stores. This year, however, we thought we would give it a shot, just to see if there was enough merchandise left after some pretty heavy pre-Christmas price promoting. In the past few seasons, stores have been extremely tight regarding inventory, so that by the time the Holidays rolled around, there was often only meager selections left for clearance business. This year, there was a bit more confidence in the market, and Holiday business in general has been closer to more optimistic expectations. Rather than making a tour of every store in Manhattan (seriously, how much energy do you think The Shophound has?) we picked Saks Fifth Avenue as our microcosm to see just how the immediate day-after-Christmas sales would pan out this year. 

As in the past, Saks opened at 8 AM this year on December 26th offering extra discounts on marked down goods of up to 50% only until noon, when the discounts mostly reverted to 30% off. This brings savings up to 60% to 70% off, which is generally as good as or sometimes better than waiting for the final clearance sales that will come next month. While we have seen the main floor packed on such days in previous years, we were surprised to see things relatively subdued on the main floor when we entered sometime around 9 AM —possibly because the handbag and accessories departments at Saks are so sprawling and fragmented. Expect this arrangement to change once the chain's new owners start shaking things up, but for now, activity felt key, and as we rose on the escalators, we saw sale racks with a good number of customers, but not the rabid frenzy we were expecting. Then we hit the first men's floor on 6, where the shoe sale racks were swarmed (pictured below). It was a challenge just to get near the section for our size, and one floor up, where the casual and designer men's shoes were racked up, it was equally as crowded. It was one floor up on Saks' vast women's shoe floor where things were really getting crazy —or so we could see from the escalator (pictured above). It seems that the women's shoe department was so crowded and busy that security had to close it to new customers, letting them in one by one as other shoppers left. It turns out that as much as nearly every department store in the city has enlarged its shoe departments, they can never get big enough. New York shoppers' desire for shoes —whether full-price or on sale— seems to know no limits. The other part of the store that seemed to come close in activity was on the Ninth floor where most of the rest of the men's sale merchandise was consolidated in a vast arrangement of racks. Perhaps this set-up is better for daily numbers, but it made for a very tight shopping environment. One might question whether or not a luxury store like Saks should really turn itself into a discount-store environment just because it is sale time, but that is a question for management and new owners to ponder. Now that the immediate, before-noon discounts have expired, things should quiet down a bit, but there's still a big vacation weekend coming up with lots of people and tourists on vacation as well as the possibility of extra New Years Day discounts, so if there's still money burning a hole in your pocket, there will still be some opportunity for savings in the next week or so.


Get A Look At Thom Browne's Insane Spring Collection In Saks' Windows

Thom Browne was at Saks Fifth Avenue today for a trunk show featuring his controversial Spring 2014 collection. When we call it insane, we aren't trying to be snarky. That was his artistic intent for the runway show which featured models in giant birds' nest shaped hairdos and makeup that appeared to be a tribute to Heath Ledger's Joker from The Dark Knight. Like most of Browne's runway shows for both men and women, the general effect was extreme to say the least. Now that the visual department at Saks has virtually replicated the show's styling for the store's prime Fifth Avenue windows, you can get a closer look at the fascinating combinations of materials and meticulous workmanship that went into these outfits. Of course, you have to get up pretty close and peer through the venetian blinds inspired by the ones that obscure Browne's own boutique on Hudson Street, making the display appear even more mysterious (Did you even know that there was a Thom Browne boutique in New York?). It's going to take a whole lot of editing and adaptation to get prominent Browne customers like Michelle Obama, or anyone else for that matter, into these clothes, and the way they wind up hanging on the racks in stores like Saks and Barneys may not ultimately be as potent as the way they appear here, so it's worth going out of your way to check out these truly unusual designs in their original form —while they last.

Have a look at a few more shots in the gallery below

  • ThomBrowneSaks-A
  • ThomBrowneSaks-B
  • ThomBrowneSaks-C


Lord & Taylor's Parent
Buys Saks Fifth Avenue

SaksFifthAvenueAfter a period of time on the block marked by wild speculation (like a merger with Neiman Marcus?) Canada's Hudson's Bay Co. has emerged as the winning bidder for Saks Incorporated, the company that includes Saks Fifth Avenue, and outlet chain Saks Off 5th. The total transaction is valued at about $2.9 billion, and adds Saks to a portfolio at HBC that includes the Canadian chains Hudson's Bay and Home Outfitters as well as New York's Lord & Taylor

HBC beat out several suitors for Saks including icluding private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, which was behind the questionable notion of merging Saks and Neiman Marcus which has also been put up for a possible sale, and the Qatar Investment Authority, a sovereign wealth fund of the Emirate's royal family, whose major retail holdings include London-based Harrod's and Paris-based Printemps.

What does this mean for Fifth Avenue neighbors Saks and Lord & Taylor? The chains are expected to be run as separate entities serving different market segments. The merger will create opportunities for Saks Inc. stores and to enter Canada and compete with luxury stores over the northern border like Holt Renfrew, for example, as well as a projected cost savings for HBC of $97.3 million over the next three years. No management changes are expected in the immediate future at Saks, and customers shouldn't immediately notice any difference in the store's operations. Saks CEO Steven I. Sadove announced, “We are excited about what this opportunity and being part of a much larger enterprise can mean for the future of the Saks Fifth Avenue brand,” while HBC Richard A. Baker commented,“This exciting portfolio of three iconic brands creates one of North America’s premier fashion retailers.”Now we can turn our attention to wondering who will wind up owning Neiman Marcus?

Saks Sells Itself to Hudson’s Bay, Owner of Lord & Taylor By Michael J. De La Merced (Dealbook/NYTimes)


Department Stores Take Over

If you look at out SALE ROLL sidebar to the left, you will notice that this week's Sample Sale schedule is light, or more like nonexistent. It's probably the Fourth Of July holiday in the middle of the week that has put everything off, but if you absolutely must continue shopping, this would be a good week to hit the department stores for final markdowns. Barney's and Bergdorf Goodman's tags have hit 60% off the original retail prices. Saks Fifth Avenue is expected to offer an extra discount on sale merchandise on the Fourth, which could bring savings up to 70% off or more, and Bloomingdale's can be reliably expected to do the same on any given holiday. So even if you are averse to the vastness of department stores, this week would be the one to check them out.


Bloomingdale's Rolls Out The Luxury Leases For Gucci & Prada

BloomingdalesGucciLike any major department store, Bloomingdale's is a continually evolving work-in-progress, and over the past few seasons, the store has added an abundance of luxury megabrands to its main floor that hasn't been seen at 59th & Lexington since the store's fabled heyday in the 1970s and 80s. How did it happen? To a certain extent, Bloomingdale's is becoming less of a retailer and more of a landlord.

The most recent addition to the flagship's string of accessory boutiques are two Gucci boutiques, one for women (pictured above), and one for men, and men's counterparts to the recently opened Prada and longtime Louis Vuitton shops on the Lexington Avenue Arcade section. In fact, the store has just finished replicating a men's version of the Arcade concept along the Third Avenue wall of the main floor including Prada, Gucci, and LV (pictured below) along with smaller spaces for Ferragamo, Turnbull & Asser, Thomas Pink and Paul Smith. Why did Bloomingdale's have to lease out these shops? Probably because they wouldn't have been allowed to carry the labels any other way.

BloomingdalesGucciLVMenHow this happened is a story about how luxury brands are changing their way of dealing with American retailers and what it means for New York's shopping scene. Readers may remember a few seasons ago when Barneys made a surprise announcement that it was dropping Prada's women's apparel and accessory lines from all of its stores. Barneys had been a Prada supporter since long before it had been a household word, and was believed to have a strong business with the brand. However, Prada management was insisting that if the store wanted to continue carrying women's clothes and accessories (shoes and men's collections were not included in the deal) that it would have to turn over space to the brand so it could run its own boutiques under Barney's roof. Barneys claimed that this was against its policies, and let the lines go. For Prada, and other companies like it, this reflected a common practice in Europe that they were anxious to roll out to North America. Department stores in major overseas cities are often almost entirely made up of independent designer shops cobbled together under one roof, but for a store like Barneys which, changes in management notwithstanding, has always prided itself on the taste and curatorial authority of its fashion office and merchandising staff, having a vendor control what is sold in its store was out of the question, so a big chunk of Prada business went out the door. At around the same time, a brand new Prada accessory shop appeared in the North-West corner of the main floor at Bloomingdale's, which has never carried it, and is still working to burnish its luxury image after a damaging trading down during the recession of the 1990's. The existing Prada department at Saks Fifth Avenue also appeared taken over by its vendor at around the same time. We wouldn't be surprised to see a leased Prada apparel shop appear in Saks any day now. They already have one for Vuitton.

BloomingdalesPradaMenSuch arrangements are not unprecedented. In the late 1990's Louis Vuitton notified its retail partners that it was closing its wholesale business entirely, and converting to a fully leased shop-in-shop program, and any store that wanted to continue selling it would have to comply. Most of them did, and the Vuitton shops in Bloomingdale's, Saks and Macy's all became leased departments which have been dramatically expanded in the time since. Gucci has quietly engineered a similar exertion of control. The new Bloomingdale's shops as well as a large one upcoming in Macy's are all leases, and the brand has recently taken over existing men's and women's apparel and accessories shops at Saks Fifth Avenue. Only shoes are left to the store's own buyers. As these mega-brands -all of whom have gained dramatically in prestige over the past two decades- get bigger they are increasingly turning to the stores who helped built their success and taking that business back. What it means is that stores that wish to continue selling the labels are forced to give up some of their merchandising control (Bloomingdale's, Saks) or drop the lines (Barneys). So far the one store untouched by all this struggle for control appears to be Bergdorf Goodman, which has had several Gucci departments for years, and in the past few seasons, has repaired a relationship with Prada that was bitterly broken about 15 years ago leading to a decade-long banishment of the brand. Bergdorf's shares Barneys' policy against leasing space in their main product categories in part because both stores encourage cross selling by staff throughout the store that leasing can make difficult and confusing. One wonders if Gucci and Prada will be similarly turned out of Bergdorf's in the coming seasons, or if the brands will let it stand as a single store exception. What we may see going forward is a power shift from the client to the vendor, where luxury mega-brands choose to bestow their cachet on stores that meet their terms. They are already pretty demanding as it is. Brands like Chanel and Giorgio Armani have long lists of requirements for for stores who sell their products as authorized resellers, but leasing is another level of control. Eventually we might see a contest of prestige between the big designer labels and the stores who wish to carry them.


Louis Vuitton Taking Its Own Corner Of Saks' Giant Shoe Floor

It's official now. There is no shoe department that is too big or too extensive for New York. Saks Fifth Avenue's 10022-SHOE department opened just a couple of years ago on the store's entire eighth floor to much fanfare, and now it is already being further expanded with another coup for the flagship: Louis Vuitton's first in-store shoe salon. The Peter Marino designed department will open this September on the Fifth Avenue side of the floor, and is expected to be the first of many such installations in other stores that contain Vuitton shops (Hello Bloomingdale's, Neiman Marcus, start clearing some space). Like the other two Vuitton shops in Saks for accessories and women's apparel, the shop will be directly operated by the brand itself, as it does for all of its in-store shops.

Vuitton is on something of an in-store shop expansion kick itself at the moment with a new boutique in Macy's in the works as part of that store's immense renovation of the famous Herald Square flagship. Visitors to Bloomingdale's main floor will notice that a big chunk of the men's department along the store's Third Avenue wall has been closed off for another Vuitton department that is under construction —presumably a separate men's accessories shop.

As for Saks, it also signals an increasing hospitality for the kind of leased in-store shop arrangement that forced Prada's women's apparel and accessories out of Barneys last year. Gucci recently took over much its selling space in Saks, and several other accessory departments on the main floor such as Dior and Fendi (and, presumably now, Prada) are also vendor-operated. Barneys and Bergdorf Goodman, traditionally have rejected such arrangements as an infringement on the stores' merchandising integrity, and given the option, have both chosen not to carry or drop brands like Vuitton that insist on such arrangements. It will be interesting to see how that affects the future distribution of luxury megabrands in the city, especially with Nordstrom on the way, looking for major labels to compete with.

Louis Vuitton to Unveil Shoe Salon at Saks Fifth Avenue (WWD)


CARR Launches A Posthumous Label For Fall 2012

CarrJohnAquinoWWDIs it possible to launch a label for a designer who has been dead for over a decade?
George Carr and Edward Jones III are about to find out when they debut the CARR label this fall. The brand is named for designer Zack Carr, who briefly had his own label in the 1980s but was best known as Calvin Klein's longtime Creative Director. He also happened to be George Carr's brother and died from a rare blood cancer in 2000. Well known and liked by fashion insiders, Zack Carr never achieved the kind of immense fame that could help promote a new label, but the new brand's founders are betting on the quality of vast archives of sketches that the designer left to creatively fuel the new collections. Jones tells WWD, “I think there’s an authenticity of design coming from Zack that is the foundation, which is really important, but we don’t have to live on that.” Carr's naturally clean-lined style should lend itself to a timeless point of view, and a design staff will adapt the thousands of sketches for modern modern sensibilities. And major retailers are already on board with the effort, too. Bloomingdale's and and Saks Fifth Avenue will be exclusively carrying the women's and men's collections respectively through Fall 2013.

Priced solidly in the Designer price range, there may also be a secret customer in wait for the launch: former, faithful Calvin Klein Collection customers who haven't been as charmed as the press has by Francisco Costa's take on the label since its namesake stepped away about a decade ago (The Collection component of the brand has diminished commercially since Klein retired). Who would have guessed that their solution would come from beyond?

George Carr Launching New Brand for Fall By Marc Karimzadeh (WWD)