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Saks Fashions

gucci sneakerThe new Saks Fifth Avenue president has decided that customers aren’t interested in bland apparel anymore, reports Christina Binkley in The Wall Street Journal (4/3/14). "Our customers already have everything they really truly need," says Marigay McKee, Saks’s new president. "We really have to offer rarer, more unique things." She is scaling back "safer, more ‘commercial’ styles" in favor of "runway clothing and accessories" from "leading labels."

She is also adding "more emerging designers — a group whose inexperience and often-shaky finances scare off many retailers," and ordered the retailer’s "financial planners to relax their budgeting systems in the field," and trust them to trust their instincts. "What I was telling them, is we have to buy from the gut," she says. Saks fashion director Colleen Sherin adds: "Pieces that were once icing on the cake really need to be the core of the buy." This can mean "prices rising to more than $20,000 for some coats and dresses."

Even the sneakers "range in price from $300 to $1,000 or more." (link) "The colors are aggressive and the prices are aggressive," says Eric Jennings, fashion director for men’s. "There is zero price resistance." After the 2008 economic collapse, Saks was among the first to slash prices — "by as much as 80% within a few weeks." Shoppers learned to wait for deals, and eventually, its "discount-based strategy left it posting quarterly losses on relatively flat sales. Meanwhile, rival Neiman Marcus, focused on top-tier luxury, saw its sales and profits grow."