Saks Fifth Avenue on Thursday opened an 8,000-square foot luxury men's shoe space as part of its Fifth Avenue flagship renovation. Saks will roll out special events featuring panel discussions and an Aug. 8 launch of Puma sneakers by Alexander-John, with an appearance by fashion guru Mike Camargo, who is known as "Upscale Vandal."
The selection of more than 60 brands (15 new to Saks) includes more than 2,000 SKUs,160 exclusive styles, extended sizing and merchandise personalization, according to a company press release.
Services include lace personalization from AGLIT ITALY Lace Bar and made-to-order opportunities with such brands as Pierre Corthay, Ermenegildo Zegna, Salvatore Ferragamo, Santoni, John Lobb, Bally and Artioli, according to the release. The space also offers shoe repair stations and guidance from 30 multilingual men's style advisors.
With this expansion of its men's footwear department, struggling Hudson's Bay Co. furthers its hopes that Saks will serve as a lifeline. Taking a page from the department store days of old, the massive area emphasizes customer service with resources like fashion advice, shoe repair and shoe shining, and merchandise personalization.
In a statement, Saks Fifth Avenue President Marc Metrick called it "another milestone" in the flagship's $250 million renovation.
"Luxury footwear is the gateway for men's customers into fashion and the new shoe experience is just the beginning of exciting things to come for our menswear offering," he said. "Men's is a growing category at Saks, where we have seen a consistently positive customer response both in our stores and online."
But as massive and high touch as the space appears to be, it remains to be seen whether the new department takes the customer experience to the level needed for a store attempting to sell such expensive items. While Saks is selling footwear priced well above what Designer Brands (formerly DSW) does, the warehouse retailer offers some similar amenities.
When it comes to high-end men's shoes, there are specialty retailers that are taking more innovative approaches to the customer experience, including Minneapolis-based Martin Patrick3, according to retail analyst Sanford Stein, author of "Retail Schmetail," who called that retailer, "the signature men's specialty clothier in the country right now."
Like Saks, Martin Patrick3 offers fashion guidance and tailoring and also has a barbershop. But the store provides an absorbing aspirational environment by exhibiting its footwear within various vignetted rooms coordinated with other apparel and even home furnishings.
"Everything about that experience exceeds what Sax appears to be doing by multiples," Stein told Retail Dive in an email. "When you think about the kind of investment Nike made in NYC to sell athletic shoes, what does that suggest about the level of display, design and customer experience that ought to support the sale of a $300 wingtip? Unless you are DSW, the CX needs to be immersive."