Our visit to the Saks grand opening in Toronto this morning brought us unique observations, most of them positive. Overall Saks delivers the text book formula for a luxury retail outlet, however our eyebrows were raised in a few areas of execution in the store.
Our expectations were met in the following areas: Saks comes through with all of the key premium brands the luxury customer is looking for across all departments. As an extension some unique brands have been brought in not seen within their key competitors. The core essentials of a luxury retail experience were delivered upon such as ambiance, knowledgeable staff interaction and engagement, wide spacious aisles and personalized services. Overall, we see Saks as a very formidable competitor in the dynamically changing retail luxury segment in Canada.
Here is what raised our eyebrows. The visual transition between Saks and its sister company Hudson's Bay (which is directly adjacent to Saks) was confusing based on its visual merchandising similarities. A common foyer divides both stores. A quick glance on both sides of the foyer and it becomes difficult to differentiate which store is actually Saks. In addition, as your shopping the different floors of Saks, you become somewhat disoriented as you suddenly enter Hudson's Bay riding the escalator from the 3rd to 4th floor.
Peculiar as well was the brand imagery divergence between Menswear, Ladieswear and Ladies Accessories. Branding in Menswear was extremely subtle, which was a stark difference by the time you entered Ladies hand bags, where suddenly you walked into high impact boutique outlets, all aggressively trumpeting their brand cache.
The luxury retail segment in Canada is experiencing revolutionary change, kicked off with today's opening of Saks. Additional openings are coming fast and furious from all of the key players: additional Saks outlets, Nordstrom, Simons as well as a Holt Renfrew major expansion, all within the next six to nine months. In addition to that, the discount luxury segment (off-price) will only add to the intensity of competition. The jury is out as to whether this segment up until now has been significantly underserved. The productivity numbers will decide.
CLICK HERE for link to pictures we took today from Saks Toronto.
We will stay on top of it and keep you advised! Stay tuned for more updates as the drama unfolds!
Tony Whitehouse & Bruce Winder
Co-Founders & Partners
Retail Advisors Network™