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Is Saks Taking a Page From the Barneys Playbook?

Photo by Brian Harkin
Photo by Brian Harkin

Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.

If we're pegging national department stores to Clueless characters, Barneys is Dionne: It's not afraid of fashion, or rather "I must give her snaps for her courageous fashion sense." Saks Fifth Avenue would be Tai: In need of a makeover, but very willing.

And now Saks' new president Marigay McKee is taking a page from Barneys' playbook to usher in a new, riskier era at the aging store by focusing on edgier designers and taking a chance on emerging talent. Specifically, Balmain and Alexander Wang have been added to the Saks roster, while Balenciaga has been invited back after a long hiatus. As Colleen Sherin, Saks' fashion director, explained to WSJ, "Pieces that were once icing on the cake really need to be the core of the buy. We need more wow."

To wit, the New York flagship and 15 other locations have already opened an entire section dedicated to men's sneakers priced from $300 to $1,000+, as our sister site reports. Eric Jennings, fashion director for men's and home ware, said, "The colors are aggressive and the prices are aggressive." They even have trackpants, for work and leisure.

The makeover, which intends to take the store from safe basics at discounted prices to price-ceiling-breaking luxury, has been in the works since Canadian department store company Hudson's Bay Co. purchased Saks in January. But despite the attention toward fresh designers, McKee notes the uptick in is still aimed toward to 40-year-old and up customer. So while Barneys might capture customers from their first decent paycheck, McKee hopes to reassert Saks as the place that keeps you cool well into your golden years.
· Saks Gets a Daring Makeover [WSJ]
· Saks' New Strategy: Make the Saks Off 5th Outlet 'A Mess' [Racked]