Saks Fifth Avenue’s Canadian flagship at the CF Toronto Eaton Centre has a new VP General Manager, Gregory Boggan, and he has a vision for the store that includes enhanced customer service as well as an attempt to secure new brands as shoppers request them. He says that the downtown Toronto store is one of Saks’ top performers and that it has continued to gain market share after opening in early 2016.
Prior to moving to Toronto in October, Mr. Boggan most recently operated the 200,000 square foot Saks flagship at the Houston Galleria in Houston and before that, he worked with luxury chain Neiman Marcus at its Dallas (NorthPark) and Denver stores. Toronto is a change of scenery, though Mr. Boggan said that he’s a fan of cold weather and is also a fan of historical architecture such as the building where Saks is located in downtown Toronto.
The 170,000 square foot flagship Saks Fifth Avenue store opened in February of 2016, occupying four floors at the eastern end of the massive Hudson’s Bay Queen Street building at the CF Toronto Eaton Centre. The top three levels are more of a typical Saks offering, while the basement level houses a 23,000 square foot food hall operated by Pusateri’s Fine Foods.
Customers have been drawn to Saks’ extensive assortment of luxury brands on the store’s three fashion levels, which include a comprehensive offering from brands such as Saint Laurent, Valentino, Stella McCartney and Balenciaga, among others. Saks’ ‘Fifth Avenue Club’ personal shopping suites on the store’s third floor are popular amongst a segment of consumers that are seeking out a more private one-on-one experience that also includes large dressing rooms and even catering. The mobile ‘Saks at Your Service’ van also visits customers’ residences upon request, and both are gaining a following in the city.
The downtown Toronto store is now among Saks’ top five locations in North America in terms of annual sales. The 611,000 square foot New York City flagship is the company’s top performer, generating a substantial percentage of sales for the roughly 40-store chain. The Beverly Hills store ranks second and Atlanta and Boston follow, while the Toronto flagship and the Houston flagship are neck-and-neck in terms of sales to rank at fifth place. That means that the Toronto Saks store is doing higher sales than downtown locations in markets such as San Francisco and Chicago, both considered to be retail powerhouses in the United States.
At the downtown Toronto Saks store, handbags and shoes are both very strong in terms of overall sales. The store’s ground floor features a series of luxury brand boutiques with shop-in-stores for brands such as Bottega Veneta, Chloé, Saint Laurent, Valentino and Stella McCartney, and accessory concessions for Prada, Dior and Louis Vuitton are also on the main floor. Upstairs, the women’s 8,500 square foot footwear department dubbed ‘10022-SHOE’ carries a range of leading brands such as Jimmy Choo, Manolo Blahnik, Gucci and Dior.
On the second floor, the spiral central footwear department is a major draw for men who are also shopping for leading luxury brands such as Fendi, Givenchy and Dolce & Gabbana, amongst others. A trendier shoe offering is popular with a younger, affluent male consumer that is also buying some of the trendier ready-to-wear and accessory offerings on the men’s floor.
Saks’ third floor is a mix of luxury brands and contemporary labels. Luxury brands occupy much of the eastern end of the floor that also features the Fifth Avenue Club private shopping area, while contemporary brands are located further west with an entrance into the adjacent Hudson’s Bay flagship store.
One of the benefits to being connected to Hudson’s Bay, according to Mr. Boggan, is the opportunity for some cross-shopping of brands. Hudson’s Bay’s third level also features a contemporary assortment of fashions as well as ‘The Room’, which is a roughly 20,000 square foot department featuring an assortment of luxury brands, some of which are also carried over at Saks. Both stores also carry a range of designers not carried in the other, and personal shoppers have the opportunity to sell product from both stores, depending on what the shopper wants.
Mr. Boggan said that one of his intentions is to motivate staff in the store to further create relationships with shoppers in an effort to provide the best customer service possible. Given that most of the products sold at Saks aren’t ‘necessities’, creating a curated experience is key to attracting and retaining customers. Not to mention, the Nordstrom store at the opposite end of CF Toronto Eaton Centre carries a range of luxury labels for women and men, and homegrown Holt Renfrew operates a 190,000 square foot store about two kilometers north on Bloor Street West.
Moving forward, Saks is looking to carry some new brands that the Toronto flagship currently lacks, and it has the opportunity to use its larger US connections to secure these brands. Gucci is a requested brand that is currently not carried at Toronto’s Saks, though some stores in the United States feature the brand, often in shop-in-stores. Saks Fifth Avenue is one of the top two luxury department store chains in the US and that weight makes it possible for it to work with new brands that make sense.
The CF Toronto Eaton Centre Saks Fifth Avenue flagship is one of three standalone locations for the brand in Canada at the moment. A week after the downtown Toronto flagship opened to the public, Saks unveiled a 143,200 square foot three-level store at Toronto’s CF Sherway Gardens, which also features a food hall operated by Pusateri’s Fine Foods. Mr. Boggan explained that the fashion mix at the CF Sherway Gardens Saks might not be quite as trendy as some of the offerings downtown, though the store has loyal clients and there is some cross-shopping of brands.
In February of 2018, Saks Fifth Avenue also opened a 115,000 square foot store at CF Chinook Centre in Calgary, which was its first in Canada outside of Toronto. A previously announced 200,000 square foot Montreal Saks flagship is on hold for now, according to sources. And while no Vancouver store announcements have been made, Mr. Boggan said it “makes sense” to have a store in such an “amazing city”.