Saks Fifth Avenue is Saks Inc.'s most expensive accessory. A subsidiary of Saks, Saks Fifth Avenue (SFA) operates about 40 upscale department stores in 20-plus states. The retailer is near the top of the line in fashion, selling apparel, cosmetics, jewelry, and shoes from top designers such as Burberry, Chanel, and Prada, as well as Saks' own private label merchandise. SFA's fast-growing off-price sister chain, Off 5th, caters to thriftier customers and has overtaken SFA with more than 70 locations across the US. SFA also operates a catalog and an online store and runs smaller shops in chic vacation spots. Saks Inc. in 2013 was acquired by Canada's Hudson's Bay Co., owner of rival Lord & Taylor.
Change in Company Type
The $2.9 billion sale of parent Saks Inc. to Canada's Hudson's Bay closed in November 2013. Hudson's Bay, which operates north and south of the US-Canada border, paid shareholders $16 per share, representing a 30% premium to the stock price in late May, when reports emerged of a possible sale of Saks.
While all of its company-owned stores are located in the US, Saks Fifth Avenue has several licensed international stores in the Middle East (Dubai and Bahrain), and in Mexico City and Polanco. The Mexico stores are operated under an agreement with Grupo Sanborns.
Off 5th (launched in 2008) is Saks Fifth Avenue's luxury outlet store format. The chain, which sells value-priced designer apparel and accessories, has been the growth vehicle for Saks in recent years as the US economy swooned. Now, with the company's sales approaching pre-recession levels, and Off 5th posting same-store sales gains below that of pricier SFA in recent quarters, one wonders if the retailer has the right store mix to fully capitalize on the resurgence in luxury retail.
Saks says: "Let's hear it for the top 1%!" While many consumers continue to pinch pennies, well-heeled shoppers at SFA stores have opened their wallets, driving sales up 20% over the past three years. In fiscal 2013 (ended January), sales rose 4% versus the prior year to $3.1 billion, after rising 8% in the previous annual comparison. Rising same-store sales across all merchandise categories and an extra week in fiscal 2013 are credited for the increase. However, net income declined 16% in fiscal 2013 versus 2012 to about $63 million.
As shoppers return to paying full price for merchandise, SFA is adjusting its inventory to feature more expensive goods, such as Chanel suit and Gucci handbags. With its US business apparently back on track, Saks is looking far beyond Fifth Avenue for growth. The company hopes to open between five and 10 locations in Japan over the next decade and has formed a strategic relationship with Roosevelt China Investments Corp. to scout sites for SFA stores in China and Macao. ASFA store is slated to open in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 2014.
At home, growth of the retailer's OFF 5TH chain continues to outpace that of SFA stores. Indeed, about 10 new OFF 5TH locations are planned by 2015, while just two new SFA locations are slated to debut.
Southeastern Asset Management is Saks' largest shareholder with about 19% of the shares. Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim Helu, through Inmobiliaria Carso, owns more than 15% of the company's shares. Diego Della Valle, the founder of Italian shoemaker Tod's, holds about 15%.