Saks Fifth Avenue presses to change the product cycle – WWD

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For fashion retailers, “buy now, wear now” has been the holy grail of merchandising. But at Saks Fifth Avenue, it’s time to change the product cycle.

Saks merchants, preparing to implement changes in the product cycle beyond those imposed by the pandemic, have begun discussions with vendors to closely align the arrival of new seasonal products in their stores with consumer demand. Discussions took place with 20 key brands in particular, including Brunello Cucinelli, Burberry, Proenza Schouler and Stella McCartney. For example, an autumn cashmere turtleneck could be introduced in September instead of June; boots arrive near the cold months and sandals arrive near spring.

“This is about what we can do now, through this health crisis, to accelerate the transformation of Saks Fifth Avenue,” Marc Metrick, president of Saks, told WWD in an interview.

“Where does Saks want to be in 2025 or 2028? There are a lot of things we can do differently now that would have otherwise taken us a long time to fix. We want to be the luxury leader with how we market to the customer, with what our product flow is and with what we sell to people as we go out of it. “

Saks wants to lead so that the others follow. “We need it to be an industry-wide thing. We’re going to lead it, but everyone has a certain level of responsibility in the market, ”said Metrick. “It doesn’t work if the consumer sees different products at different times. It must be something that changes [throughout] Industry. “

“How we align the products that arrive with the seasons is something we’ve been thinking about for a very long time,” added Tracy Margolies, Chief Merchant of Saks. “More specifically, we assess the flow of product delivery. We’ve seen a lot of contemporary brands react, shipping more monthly. But it’s something to work with in the future with all brands, ”of which around 2,000 sold in the store.

For years, the industry has swept aside the buy now, wear now philosophy without embracing it. A few designers stabbed him, but backed off after a season or two.

Marc Metrick and Tracy Margolies inside downtown Saks Fifth Avenue.
George China

Saks executives, however, believe they are making progress on this front, indicating that in the second quarter – May, June and July – there won’t be as much fall produce on the shelves as during from previous years. “Pre-Fall and Fall merchandise will be received later than in previous years,” said Margolies. “For example, historically we started receiving pre-fall as early as April, with most arriving in July. In the new model, we will receive the pre-fall later with 50 percent received in July and the remaining 50 percent arriving in August. Fall will be received during the months of August, September and October.

The reset for 2020 is due to the pandemic, with stores temporarily closed, spring merchandise saved, and uncertainties over the extent to which consumers will resume fashion shopping. But the plan is for permanence.

“The current situation has given Saks the opportunity to reset the product lifecycle to better align it with customer preferences, which is more focused on buy it now, wear it out,” said Metrick. . “Better seasonal alignment of merchandise receipts will solve what has been an ongoing challenge for customers, brands and retailers. It is what Rahm Emanuel said, “You never let a serious crisis go to waste. But I would never say there is a silver lining in this horrible health situation. “

Business at Saks Fifth Avenue has shown some slowdown ahead of the spread of the coronavirus, and the success of some flagship renovations, especially the beauty relocation to the second level, has been called into question. Saks executives said the renovations had at least lived up to expectations, although some cosmetic sources said otherwise.

Regarding the luxury chain’s current business, executives said there had been increases in some categories of merchandise during the pandemic, including loungewear and loungewear for women, men, beauty. and the house. Executives cited Aviator Nation, Monrow, ATM and Agolde in loungewear and loungewear; and John Elliott, Amiri and Fear of God for men.

The trends seen today may expand into the future, and big efforts are envisioned across much of the assortment so that Saks can be relevant in a post-pandemic society. Among the possibilities cited by Saks executives: smaller deliveries that might come more frequently for constant novelty; more ‘seasonal’ styles that can be worn from season to season, and reconfigure the balance between casual, worn to work and evening items to meet lifestyle changes, such as work at home House. Online shopping, where Saks is not a forerunner but has grown, is also an opportunity. With more investment, saks.com could eventually represent a greater proportion of total sales. Saks declined to comment on the proportion.

“We have to keep watching and seeing where the demands are going,” Margolies said. “We have to wait and see how the office-workplace environment returns. What will major galas and events look like in a year or so? There is already a great demand for casual fashion. We have to wait and see how it unfolds. But we will continue to be who we are to our customers, something special, emotionally connected. This is what is not going to change.

With buy-now, wear-now, “The brand’s partners have been extremely receptive,” she said. “We work with suppliers and spend a lot of time on conference calls. It’s all about collaboration and finding different ways of doing things.

“There is a lot of work to be done on the brand side to make it digestible,” added Metrick. “All content needs to be adjusted.

For the Saks initiative to take root, brands and suppliers would have to change their design, production and delivery schedules, and other retailers need to be ready on the receiving side. The initiative would get a huge boost, in terms of coordinating with other retailers, if Saks owner Richard Baker, executive chairman of Hudson’s Bay Co., succeeded in buying the Neiman Marcus group. It’s no secret that he is eager to take over NMG and is pursuing a deal.

Metrick has not mince words about how the product cycle is out of whack. “We shipped heavy sweaters and leather pants to Boca Raton in June, when it was 115 degrees outside. Come to think of it, we just weren’t in tune with customer demand.

The mismatch forces markdowns to move merchandise, and on Labor Day when demand grows, stockouts occur, disappointing customers. As part of the new approach, “Tracy takes these deliveries and puts them more in front of the consumer when they want them. It helps the consumer, helps the retailer, and helps the brand. This maximizes the total lifespan of a product, ”said Metrick.

Saks decided to temporarily shut down its Manhattan flagship on March 17 and the rest of the chain a day later. When asked how Saks is going to orchestrate the reopening of its stores once the coronavirus is gone, Metrick said, “It’s going to be very iterative.” He said the organization had strategies and plans for “the now, back to school and the next normal.”

“We have to think about the Saks experience, how are customers going to want to shop, how are they going to enter the store from the point of entry? The fire department allows 11,000 people to enter the Saks flagship at a time. On average per day throughout the year, we have around 5,000 people in the store throughout the day. It won’t be one of those issues that people are afraid to come to, ”because of social distancing issues. “Saks is not a traffic store. It’s a converting store, ”which means that compared to other large retail boxes, Saks receives fewer people in the store daily, but they are bigger spenders.

Regarding the wearing of masks and other protective equipment, “We will follow all guidelines from healthcare professionals. Our stylists, associates and clients need to feel safe.

He sees new shopping experiences for Saks in the Next Normal. “You can imagine shopping by appointment during the store’s off-peak hours”, when it is closed. “Who wouldn’t want to shop when there are 11 people in a 600,000 square foot space? “

As people become more comfortable living digital lives in the next normal, Saks could offer shopping through Zoom, where shoppers of their home computing devices meet live with a stylist who is in the store ready to go. show them and help them shop. “It’s a combination of the physical and the virtual,” observed Metrick. This allows you to shop from the comfort and security of your home and to be assisted by a stylist who is physically present in the store, said Metrick, adding, “It’s a new way to shop.”

Read more from WWD:

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The future of digital fashion brands in the coronavirus era

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