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SaksOff5th.com Hires SVP of E-Commerce as Priorities Shift for 2023

Saks off 5th, saks off fifth, off price
Outside a Saks Off 5th store at the Palm Beach Outlet mall in West Palm Beach, Fla.
Jeff Greenberg/Universal Images

SaksOff5th.com has hired Julie Mares, a 20-year veteran of luxury, off-price, e-commerce and department stores, as senior vice president of e-commerce.

The appointment signals a major shift to new priorities and initiatives at the online off-price luxury retailer to drive growth, involving enhancing the loyalty program, personalization, search relevancy and the merchandising on Off5th’s app and website.

“The important takeaway is, over the last two years we’ve focused on foundational elements with our capital spend — the supply chain, operational efficiencies, building out loyalty and launching an app. The shift this year is our capital is really focused primarily on all customer-facing initiatives,” said Paige Thomas, president and chief executive officer of Saks Off 5th, in an exclusive interview with WWD.

“We have prioritized our capital in 2023 to really be grounded in customer-facing initiatives, which is the exact point of this new role Julie takes on.”

Thomas cited Mares’ “incredible digital background and 20 years of experience across multiple touch points, from luxury to off-price to e-commerce to department stores.”

Mares will have oversight of the SaksOff5th.com website and app design, the customer experience roadmap, online merchandising, and the digital content strategy. Mares will also be a member of the SaksOff5th.com executive committee. She starts her job on Tuesday and will report to Thomas. All of the technology and engineers as well as the supply chain fall under the purview of the chief operating officer, Shivi Shankaran.

Mares spent the past three years as head of e-commerce and omnichannel at UnTuckIt. Earlier, she worked at Walmart, Simon Property Group, Gucci, Century 21 and Macy’s, where she managed teams in e-commerce, omnichannel retailing, corporate marketing, planning and merchandising.

“There is incredible opportunity ahead for the SaksOff5th.com business,” Mares said in a statement. “By implementing a holistic, data-driven e-commerce strategy, we will be well equipped to evolve our digital capabilities and positioned to provide a best-in-class site experience for our customers.”

Before, with the Off 5th website and app, “We really didn’t have a single leader that was owning that full customer experience,” Thomas said. “How does the online store look and feel and engage with customers every single day? That’s what this role is going to own. It’s broad in scope, and it’s a role we did not have in the organization before.”

Areas that Mares has responsibility for “actually sat under three groups,” Thomas explained. “Each maybe had slightly different agendas and looked at things in a different way.” It wasn’t anyone’s full-time job to examine the online experience regularly, and monitor the functionality, experience and overall customer journey.

“The big play for us is to continue to build out loyalty and engagement with customers,” Thomas said. “We’ve signed up over 1.6 million customers into our loyalty program, and it hasn’t even anniversaried a year. We see an opportunity to enhance the loyalty program through engagement features. And again, this all comes through in the app and website enhancements.”

Personalization, Thomas added, “is a big opportunity for us, particularly knowing these customers, using customer segmentation, driving personal digital content and engagement, whether that be email, or through digital marketing. That will be a big unlock for us this year.”

Thomas also said that Off 5th is “still doubling down on resale,” which the off-pricer launched in earnest last year. “Julie would own that as well as far as how that experience comes to life through navigation, personalization. Continuing to build out partnerships on product falls into Molly’s space,” said Thomas, referring to Molly Taylor, the chief merchant.

Thomas wants to improve the “relevancy” of Off 5th’s search and personalization functions. “Our customers search by brand, very much so, and there’s opportunity when a customer comes online to bring search and personalization together.…We do not have strong personalization capability today. That’s why it’s really a ‘double click’ for us,” meaning an area to double down on. “With an advanced customer data platform, analysts and a loyalty program in place, as foundational pieces to the business, we can drive that personalization capability.”

Additionally, Thomas sees plenty of room for improving the merchandising of the website and app. “When we think about what that looks like for the customer, there’s a lot of work that we have to do that, again, is connected to personalization. What are the product arrays that we’re presenting to the customer? What does a marketing link look like? So if somebody opens an email, and we’re selling dresses, what does that link connect back to? And then there’s digital content marketing, which is out in social or in display.”

Being in the business of off-price, Thomas noted, “Sometimes means we do not have full access to brands at any given moment. We may be lean in product at that moment. And so we give them the six best product offerings that we have,” and then another designer brand could pop up, so the shopper gets some alternative fashion choices. “That’s based on the search engine working hard for us. If you like this or that brand, then you likely will like X, Y and Z brand on the dot-com, signaling a shift in environments” seen on online.

Last year, Off 5th boosted efforts to be more customer-centric by introducing a “guaranteed delivery date” service, providing a delivery date for an order at the time of checkout. Before, there was a three- to five-day window for the delivery and shoppers had to wait until their order was shipped to have visibility on the arrival date. For thousands of items on SaksOff5th.com, but not all items, customers can see a specific delivery date whether browsing on a product detail page or at checkout. A concrete delivery date is being provided for all possible shipping methods, allowing customers to select the delivery date and cost option that best suits them. The offering was made possible through in-house technology development, fulfillment center enhancements and carrier diversification.

Off 5th wants to be the off-price leader in resale. The company has been building up a network of sources supplying pre-owned fashion since 2020, when it first partnered with LXR & Co., for pre-owned vintage handbags and luxury accessories from brands like Prada, Celine, Gucci and Louis Vuitton. Last year, Off 5th partnered with Rent the Runway to sell pre-owned women’s apparel from the ready-to-wear assortment, launched with 2 Authenticators, which specializes in the resale of luxury handbags and small leather goods, and launched with Reflaunt, thereby adding menswear, men’s accessories, and men’s and women’s footwear and sunglasses to the assortment of pre-owned merchandise.

In 2021, Saks Off 5th split its stores and e-commerce operations into separate companies. Saks Off 5th’s parent company, Hudson’s Bay Co., got Insight Partners, an investment company, to invest $200 million in Saks Off 5th, to spur its growth. HBC also separated the Saks Fifth Avenue brand into separate stores and e-commerce companies, and its Hudson Bay division in Canada into separate stores and e-commerce companies.

This story was reported by WWD and originally appeared on WWD.com.
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SaksOff5th.com Hires SVP of E-Commerce as Priorities Shift for 2023
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