Saks’ Jennings Sees Opportunity in Men’s

NEW YORK — A few weeks into his new post at Saks Fifth Avenue, Eric Jennings is bullish about the men’s footwear category.

“In these tough economic times, men’s footwear is the one area in our stores that is a shining star,” said Jennings, men’s fashion director and VP of menswear, home, food and gifts. However, the difficult financial environment means he will focus on value and uniqueness in his buys.

“Everyone in the industry needs to be much more careful and much more focused,” Jennings said. “[We are looking for] things that are right for our customers, that are the best value, that are unique and that inspire us.”

Though the men’s shoe department in the New York store will not be getting its own ZIP code anytime soon, the contemporary men’s footwear section on the seventh floor was given a more centralized position at the end of August. Jennings said subsequent sales have already been positive. (In its August sales report, Saks announced a 6 percent sales decline from the previous year, but men’s footwear was among the strongest categories.)

Looking ahead, Jennings said he has a few brands in mind that he would like to add to the Saks offering, but declined to name them.

“I love brands that are authentic and have a heritage behind them,” he said. “I love tapping into that [history] and seeing what they are doing today.” Still, he is cautious about any new additions right now. “They have to be special and fill a niche.”

Jennings, who joined the luxury department store in early September, started his new assignment by attending New York Fashion Week. His responsibilities include forecasting seasonal trends and working with merchandising and marketing teams.

“Moccasins will be huge for spring ’09,” Jennings said in regard to footwear. “That will be an important trend in our stores.”

Most recently, Jennings was brand director at Hickey Freeman. He has also held positions at Hugo Boss, Giorgio Armani and Nordstrom.

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