A year ago, the Saks Fifth Avenue parent company Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) announced that the first Saks Off 5th (SOF) store would open at the Carsch-Haus in downtown Düsseldorf. But just a few days before the opening, the off-price retailer has divulged few details about the store and the brands it will carry.

FashionNetwork had the opportunity to meet with Saks Off Fifth head buyer Berna Bartosch and hear more of what she has planned. Bartosch leads a team of 9 buyers, 5 junior buyers and 10 employees in Merchandise Planning, tasked with the mission of making sure customer find the perfect outfit when they shop at Saks.

 

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You have been Chief Merchandising Officer for Saks Off 5th in Europe for almost a year – what were your biggest challenges?
The biggest challenge for our team was to create everything from scratch, from IT to logistics, and then to implement that into an already existing corporate structure that is based on a department store concept.

What was your job in this process and what did you enjoy most?
BB: Our task is to select relevant brands for our premium off-price concept. I love talking with our suppliers, to inspire them but never lose sight of the retail consumer’s perspective in order to get the best results for our customers. We want to continually reinvent ourselves with new exciting offers for our customers!

Who is SOF’s target market?
BB: Our target market is fashion forward individuals who have an affinity for brands and look for good value. They also are concerned about quality when making a purchase. Our customers enjoy shopping and are impulse buyers.

Which categories have you tapped for your range?
BB: Our range at Saks Off 5th comprises men’s & women’s apparel, shoes and accessories, with a special focus on handbags, soft goods, sunglasses and jewelry. We also carry kids, home and sportswear.

What were your criteria for choosing brands?
BB: We wanted our mix to be relevant and inspiring to the customer in every aspect. It is almost irrelevant what the customer is looking for: be it premium designer fashion, contemporary and niche brands or more classic fashion. Our brand mix offers all of those segments and much more. We are on the road, attending trade fairs and touring high streets in Europe, and are constantly on the look out for brands that inspire us.

Are there country-specific differences or brands that were not being carried in Germany or Europe previously?
BB: We translated the American SOF concept for Europe and our customers here and adapted it to European market requirements. In other words, we do have some other brands and price points. We consider other seasonal aspects in deciding which merchandise to buy. Plus, our product presentation differs from the American concept. There are simply regional differences. Customers here shop with other priorities and we are prepared for that.

Will there be a so-called “gold label” area?
BB: We have a special designer area for men and women, with contemporary apparel, shoes, accessories and sunglasses.

For the first flagship store in Düsseldorf’s Carsch-Haus, Saks Off 5th is leasing approximately 3,500 square meters and five floors to present its “coveted, global premium brands in a unique atmosphere” – but with price discounts of up to 70 percent.The Canadian parent company, HBC, has been operating the premium off-price retailer Saks Off 5th for many years in the US and Canada and now wants to benefit from the boom in outlet centers in Europe. HBC has plans to open 40 of the discount retailers in Germany in stores with a footprint of about 3,000 square meters and some 200 total in Europe.

The company has announced the opening of four more locations in Germany, in Hamburg, Stuttgart, Wiesbaden and Heidelberg, all scheduled to open in June and July of 2017.

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