Why Saks’ Handbag-Focused Redesign Is Also Good News for Shoe Brands

Visitors to Saks Fifth Avenue’s New York City flagship will now be greeted by an airy, 53,000-square-foot main floor dedicated to the retailer’s luxury handbag offerings — the centerpiece of a multiyear, $250 million redesign.

Opening today, the space will triple the size of Saks’ handbag department, marking the latest step in the luxury department store’s “Grand Renovation” — a project that was inaugurated by the 2015 opening of Manolo Blahnik’s boutique on Saks’ eighth-floor 10022-Shoe salon. It also included the unconventional move of the beauty department to the second floor of the store, alongside jewelry.

The main floor will now house more than 50 handbag brands, including 14 that are new to the store, plus the largest Chanel handbag shop of any multibrand North American retailer. And while this is a boon to the brands that will now be showcased to shoppers as soon as they step off the street, the company expects the renovations to drive traffic to its offerings on other floors as well — including the shoe floor.

The showpiece of the new space, an iridescent escalator designed by the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, “will essentially expand our main floor into three, creating an expansive experience where customers will have seamless access to the lower level, ground floor and second floor,” Helena Foulkes, CEO of Saks’ parent company Hudson’s Bay Co., said on a recent earnings call. “From this, we expect increased traffic throughout the store and even greater productivity from the space.”

The lower floor, when complete, will be home to “The Vault,” a “high-end jewelry experience,” as well as men’s shoes. The retailer also launched its fine-dining experience this week: L’Avenue at Saks is the famed Parisian restaurant’s first outpost outside of its home city.

The restaurant lives on the eighth and ninth floor of the flagship, putting it in the ideal location for visitors to browse Saks’ expansive shoe offerings after a glass of wine or a plate of macarons from pastry chef Pierre Hermé. (The eighth-floor shoe salon, which has its own ZIP code, has the capacity to hold 200,000 pairs.)

HBC has a lot at stake with the renovation: In December, the company announced that it would close Saks’ Brookfield Place store in downtown New York after just over two years, making the flagship the retailer’s only New York City location. Saks has been its best-performing holding, posting six consecutive quarters of same-store sales growth.

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