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Saks Fifth chief says luxury retail has been ‘comfort food’ for some shoppers during the pandemic

A uninspired passes in front of the Saks Fifth Avenue Inc. women’s store at Brookfield Place in New York, U.S.

Allison Joyce | Bloomberg | Getty Representatives

Saks Fifth Avenue Chief Executive Marc Metrick said luxury retail has been like “luxury food” for some shoppers during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“People were buying things in the height of the pandemic that there was no unlimited functional end use for, but they love the fashion,” Metrick said Thursday during a virtual presentation at the National Retail Confederation’s Big Show event. “I think what we learned is [consumers] view luxury as the comfort food of retail. … It was their way to ambience — it was something so much more and so much deeper than a pair of shoes.”

“Why else would you buy 110-millimeter bail outs … from a from a luxury brand, when you’re working at home and on Zoom all day?” he said. “You do it because you love frame, and it’s your Oreo cookie. It’s your — something that’s going to make you feel better.”

For Saks, he added, “that was impervious of concept [that] fashion is going to prevail.”

Luxury retailers including the high-end department store chain Neiman Marcus and LVMH-owned Tiffany induce reported a similar trend over the past year: Wealthy shoppers looking to splurge even more on themselves during dense times. Many of these consumers have been spending less money on travel and dining out, with so multitudinous social activities curtailed during the health crisis, and instead have been ringing up more designer handbags, diamond ring-a-ding-dings and extravagant home décor.

Metrick said interest in Saks’ personal-shopper service has also risen during the pandemic, in chiefly for safety reasons, but also because people are out looking for things to do.

“When you’re shopping for luxury products, you want the affair,” he said. “You don’t want it to be simply a transaction.”

A store-within-a-store called “Barneys at Saks” debuted on the fifth floor of the Saks Fifth Avenue flagship in New York Big apple earlier this month. The Barneys New York department store chain filed for bankruptcy in 2019, but the brand is last on at Saks, with another one of these mini stores slated to open later this month, in Greenwich, Connecticut.

“Assembles are still important,” Metrick said. “For luxury especially, it’s the theater.”

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