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Wednesday, Feb 21, 2024

Saks Unveils Luxe Palace

Saks Fifth Avenue is reinventing its West Coast flagship experience with the unveiling of its new Beverly Hills women’s store, arguing its service-based approach is the store’s “crown jewel” as department stores attempt to come up with ways to stay relevant amid changing retail trends of the 21st century. 

“Los Angeles has really become an exciting fashion destination, not just for retailers, but for our brand partners, so it all felt right for us to reopen our beautiful new women’s flagship and invest in this market,” John Antonini, director of stores at Saks Fifth Avenue, said.

John Antonini

The store, located at 9570 Wilshire Blvd., spans 130,000 square feet across six floors, filling the carapace of the former Barneys New York store, which shuttered in 2020 after the company filed for bankruptcy. 

Saks leased the property shortly thereafter and, following a $52 million transformation in partnership with Amsterdam-based design firm Arcadis, the store welcomed customers through it refurbished doors on Feb. 8.

“Saks making the investment to reopen a 130,000-square-foot department store in an era where people are kind of writing off the department store is a big flag to put in the ground, and it’s really exciting,” said Jack Nathan, an assistant vice president at Kennedy Wilson Brokerage who specializes in high-street retail. “I think the fact that they did make that decision to have this brand-new rebound department store goes a long way in supporting the strength of Los Angeles luxury in Beverly Hills.”

The grand marble staircase at Saks Fifth Avenue Beverly Hills.

The new store offers a curated assortment of women’s designer ready-to-wear, shoes, handbags, jewelry, beauty and accessories from both iconic luxury brands and emerging designers, including more than 25 brands that are new to Saks Fifth Avenue Beverly Hills, according to the fashion empire.

Service-based approach

Perhaps the most coveted element of the store lies on the fifth floor, home to Saks’ legendary Fifth Avenue Club.

The club features 15 private styling suites and a team of advanced stylists equipped to provide customers with support in a highly personalized setting, whether it be assisting clients in curating their new-season wardrobe or finding that perfect gown for an upcoming event.

“The Beverly Hills customer loves the in-store experience. Whether he or she is coming into our store to buy one item or have one experience, or whether they’re looking for a lifelong relationship with our team, this is a client base that still very much enjoys shopping in store, interacting with product and getting great advice from our team of stylists,” Antonini said. “To me, that sits at the heart of what we can create.”

A style studio at the store.

In return, the new location is the first to feature an outdoor terrace, which overlooks the Hollywood Hills, and offers a lunch and beverage service so guests feel pampered and are able to unwind while they shop.

The club is open to everyone, free of charge, but requires an appointment, which can be made online.

“We’ve created what I would call the next generation of Fifth Avenue clubs,” Antonini said.

First-class experience

But even for the in-and-out shoppers, the store is nothing short of luxurious.

Upon arrival, guests are greeted by the store’s grand marble staircase, one of the few design elements that was preserved, inviting them up to wander each floor.

Metallic accents and playful pops of color add visual excitement to the otherwise neutral palette of the store, while chandeliers and statement furniture pieces double as art. Boutique vendors station the emporium, including Dior, Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Chanel, creating intimate brand experiences all under one roof.

“I think we are going back to classics,” said Devin Klein, a vice president at Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. who specializes in luxury retail leasing, speaking on the broader evolution of American department stores. “Classics worked and they worked for a long time. The classic touch, the classic service, the classic restaurant or private lounge.”

The terrace at the store boasts views of the Hollywood Hills.

“The finishes in these department stores have to speak to their clientele,” Klein added. “Customers, especially in Beverly Hills, want to walk in and have a whole experience. They want to be pampered while they shop. This white-glove experience is hopefully coming back.”

Beverly Hills strength

High-class service isn’t the only thing Saks is betting on. The company’s choice to reopen a flagship store in the heart of Beverly Hills also indicates that the city remains a prime location for luxury fashion retailers.

“When you think about retail in America, there’s kind of a few neighborhoods or pockets or streets that have become synonymous with the luxury brands,” Nathan said. “I think the first one that anyone would think of is Fifth Avenue New York, and then, shortly thereafter, your mind would go to Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Not surprisingly, New York and Los Angeles are the two largest markets in America. But more importantly, they’ve established themselves as a place where these (luxury) brands not only want to be but need to be.”

Although this new location does not sit on Rodeo Drive, it does reside in Beverly Hills’ Golden Triangle – one of the strongest retail sectors in all of Los Angeles.

The city remains elite in terms of retail market asking rates, ending the year at $8.37 per square foot, the most expensive of all of Los Angeles’ submarkets and  nearly $5 more than the county’s average of $3.49, according to CoStar data.

“Beverly Hills is a unique place because it’s an extremely wealthy enclave,” Nathan said. “And the shopper that’s coming to Beverly Hills is usually a high-profile shopper.”

And while the model of department stores will continue to evolve, Saks’ faith in Beverly Hills remains consistent.

“Beverly Hills has been an important market for Saks Fifth Avenue for many years,” Antonini said. “As we think about the future of luxury retail and where we’re taking it as a brand, there wasn’t a better city in the world to make this sort of investment in than Beverly Hills.”

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