How Shoes Are Playing a Big Part in Saks Fifth Avenue’s Reboot

Nine years ago, Saks Fifth Avenue debuted its massive 10022-SHOE floor and ignited a battle among major department stores vying to own the footwear space. Now the Hudson’s Bay-owned retailer is upping the ante again with its first standalone shoe boutique.

The location, set to open Thursday in the well-heeled town of Greenwich, Conn., will also be called 10022-SHOE. The one-level, 14,000-sq.-ft. space at 20 East Elm St. will complement the main Saks store that’s around the corner on Greenwich Avenue.

“Our [existing] shoe floor was small, and we weren’t able to accommodate the demand that we wanted to do,” said Tracy Margolies, Saks’ chief merchant. “This store is going to have a much more residential feeling and social atmosphere. Customers will be able to come and spend the day in the shoe salon as opposed to just coming and going.”

Saks Greenwich Store Sketch
A sketch rendering of Saks' new Greenwich project.
CREDIT: Courtesy Image.

The new store will expand stock space by 30,000 units, almost tripling the amount of styles. It will feature 18 new-to-Greenwich footwear labels including more contemporary offerings from Gianvito Rossi, Balenciaga, Aquazzura, Givenchy, Alexandre Birman, Fendi and Dries Van Noten. It will also continue to carry its brand roster including Chanel, Prada, Manolo Blahnik, Jimmy Choo, Christian Louboutin, Christian Dior and Gucci.

Margolies said the expansion evolved out of its desire to attract a more diverse clientele. “We’re always looking to expand the customer base,” she said. “By broadening the assortment, we’re able to cater to any customer that walks through that door. There will be a contemporary and sneaker offering, which is definitely something new we’re introducing.”

As the retailer makes its bold move, footwear labels are keen on embracing the new concept. “Saks has always been an important partner for Jimmy Choo in the U.S. since we began working together over 15 years ago,” said Pierre Denis, Jimmy Choo’s CEO. “The opening of the first standalone shoe store in Greenwich underscores the power of the shoe category within fashion retail, and we’re delighted to be part of this new concept.”

In addition to the shoe store, the retailer will bow two other standalone locations in the same area. It will open a contemporary boutique, The Collective, in February, as well as a jewelry shop, The Vault, in May. Meanwhile, renovations on the main Greenwich store will also be completed late next year.

Tracy Margolies
Tracy Margolies
CREDIT: Axel Dupeux.

The focus on Greenwich is just one part of Saks’ ambitious overhaul under Margolies and president Marc Metrick. It comes at a time when department stores are under pressure like never before.

As Saks rivals Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom make aggressive moves in Manhattan, concept retailers such as Dover Street Market are changing the way consumers approach luxury. E-tailers Net-a-porter and Matchesfashion.com, among others, offer the same products at the click of a button.

“To stay relevant in today’s marketplace, Saks needs to be not just a department store but a shopping destination,” said Metrick. “We aim to create moments where our customers are emotionally connected to our experience. As a result, we will not only stand out, but cement our position as a leader in the luxury field.”

As it looks to fuel expansion, Saks is targeting geographic areas with untapped consumers. For example, in February, it opened its first Canadian outpost, in downtown Toronto — a move to tap into the market’s burgeoning luxury scene. (Department stores such as Nordstrom have also recently opened, in addition to flagships from Christian Louboutin and other high-end labels.)

Saks Brookfield Place
The Saks Brookfield Place store.
CREDIT: Courtesy Image.

In September, Saks opened its second New York City store, at Brookfield Place in the revived Lower Manhattan — the first follow-up to its uptown Fifth Avenue location, which opened nearly a century ago, in 1924.

The 86,000-sq.-ft.-store offers a more curated, boutique-like setting than the flagship location, with product organized by designer instead of traditional categories. The store only houses women’s collections — including of-the-moment brands such as Vetements and Public School — but it will open a separate Brookfield Place men’s store in March.

“Men are asking for fashion,” said Margolies. “We joke around and say men’s is the new women’s because men are becoming much more fashionable. There’s a whole opportunity to move them forward.”

Miu Miu Pumps
Miu Miu pump exclusive to Saks' Greenwich shoe salon.
CREDIT: Courtesy Image.
Paul Andrew pump
Paul Andrew pump exclusive to Saks' Greenwich shoe salon.
CREDIT: Courtesy Image.

This year, Saks is also forging ahead on another major project: its Fifth Avenue flagship facelift. By 2019, it expects to finalize all renovations on that store, including a further expansion of the eighth floor shoe department.

The retailer has already opened a series of shop-in-shops at the Fifth Avenue locations, with key luxe brands such as Gucci, Manolo Blahnik and Prada.

“We continue to challenge ourselves in terms of what we can do differently,” said Margolies. “We always put the customers first. If we’re passionate about what we do, then you see it in our assortments and our stores.”

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