Saks Fifth Avenue has moved its decades-old women’s store in Beverly Hills just 130 feet down the street into the former Barneys New York location that has been refitted with gleaming chandeliers, modern lighting and an elevated luxury environment.
Since 1938, the Saks Fifth Avenue women’s store, with its Hollywood Regency architecture, has been a beacon of luxury shopping on Wilshire Boulevard in a spot just south of the Golden Triangle, the premiere retail zone dominated by Rodeo Drive and its luxury stores.
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But when Barneys New York filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy five years ago, it left behind an impressive five-story building that caught the eye of Saks executives who saw a way to modernize their Beverly Hills flagship while developing plans to convert the old Saks store and the surrounding land into a mixed-use development. The Saks Fifth Avenue men’s store, a former I. Magnin outpost, remains at 9634 Wilshire Boulevard.
The new women’s store, which saw merchandise moved in five days from the old location to the new, is opening on Thursday at 9570 Wilshire Boulevard, and encompasses 130,000 square feet. It feels slightly smaller than the old location at 9600 Wilshire Boulevard. But it gleams with an interior featuring the familiar Barneys marble staircase and new services developed especially for the Beverly Hills shopper.
“This is a modern view of what a luxury multibrand experience should be,” said Marc Metrick, Saks’ chief executive officer. “Beverly Hills is an incredibly important market for Saks. It needed to be completely overhauled and that was difficult given the age of the [original] building. This was a lot easier and a lot faster.”
The new department store focuses on designer ready-to-wear, shoes and jewelry with an eye toward VIPs who want to work with a stylist to develop a wardrobe or search for key pieces. “After New York, Los Angeles is our most important market in the store chain,” said John Antonini, Saks’ senior vice president, director of stores. “This is a client base who loves shopping in a store, loves exploring and seeing what is new.”
With that in mind, the crown jewel of the new store is the Fifth Avenue Club on the fifth floor, which features 15 private styling suites and a team of Saks stylists to work with shoppers in a personalized setting. “Club members can make an appointment for personal styling and have a curated room just for them. There is no extra fee,” Antonini said. Each styling suite is furnished like a comfortable living room with ample space to try on clothes. There is a direct elevator to the fifth floor for those wishing for more privacy.
About half the fifth floor is dedicated to a large Chanel shop-in-shop concept with various rooms and a private balcony.
Off the styling suites is an outdoor terrace filled with a jungle of plants and ivy where visitors can relax and take in a stunning view of the Hollywood Hills. (The space used to be part of the Barney Greengrass restaurant, but the terrace offers lunch and beverage service for Fifth Avenue Club clients and a limited number of reservations will also be available on Resy. Also, drinks can be ordered in any department using a QR code.)
The shopping journey, however, starts when you enter the elegant emporium on the main floor where there is an expansive shoe department as well as handbags and leather goods. At 5,000 square feet, it nearly doubles Saks Fifth Avenue’s former shoe department. Overhead is a large skylight stationed on the fifth floor. The sweeping marble stairway in the middle of the shoe department leads to the upper floors.
Shoe brands populating the area include Celine, Chanel, Gucci, Jil Sander, Prada, Valentino, Christian Louboutin, Dior and Gabriela Hearst. “This really is the heartbeat of the building,” Antonini shared. “This will be part of a busy, vibrant store.”
The second floor is dedicated to fine and high-end jewelry featuring limited edition and one-of-a-kind pieces that can be seen in a private-viewing suite. Positioned around the edges of the jewelry department are three separate designer boutiques for Dior, Gucci and Louis Vuitton, which have large spaces with comfortable couches and dressing rooms to spend time exploring the brands’ various offerings.
The third floor is dedicated to luxury designer collections including Bottega Veneta, Brunello Cucinelli, Fendi, Loewe, Thom Browne, Valentino, Khaite, Maison Margiela, Nili Lotan and Prabal Gurung. More than 25 brands are new to the outpost. “In terms of designers, anything you want is within the confines of this building,” said Bo Kim, vice president and general manager of Saks Beverly Hills.
The fourth floor is home to contemporary and advanced designer collections, a wide array of denim as well as lingerie and swimwear.
On the lower floor, below shoes, beauty and fragrances are housed, and customers can book complimentary make-up lessons, facials or makeovers in three spa rooms. In the same area are Saks.com services for returns, pick-ups and online purchases. Beauty brands represented on the floor include 111Skin, Charlotte Tilbury, Santa Maria Novella, Dr. Barbara Sturm, La Mer and Maison Francis Kurkdijian.
Saks Fifth Avenue’s store planning and design team worked with architecture and design firm Arcadis to transform the flagship into a distinctive shopping location with a $52 million investment. The store is rented from building owner Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp. Each floor has airy, pearlescent white atrium spaces and reflective columns to carry natural light throughout and brighten the ambience. Metallic accents and pops of color include richly hued rugs, statement furniture pieces and vibrant wall coverings to complement the store’s neutral palette.
The store looks slightly different from the old Barneys New York, which filed for bankruptcy in August 2019. Months later, Authentic Brands Group finalized a $271 million deal to buy Barneys New York out of bankruptcy. Authentic closed all Barneys stores but inked a licensing deal with Saks Fifth Avenue to open Barneys shops within Saks Fifth Avenue locations. Currently there is a Barneys at Saks shop on the fifth floor of the Saks Fifth Avenue flagship in Manhattan. There is also a two-story Barneys at Saks location in Greenwich, Conn. There will be no Barneys at Saks in the old Barneys location on Wilshire Boulevard, however, Metrick, the Saks CEO, said.
Some might question Saks’ multimillion move just a block away from its old flagship after news that the retailer, which has 39 stores in the United States and Canada, was having problems last year paying vendors. But the department store’s parent company, Hudson’s Bay Co., raised $340 million in cash in November by monetizing some real estate to help retail operations.
More money may be on the way. Hudson’s Bay Company’s real estate and investments portfolio business has a grand plan to redevelop the properties affiliated with the historic Saks Fifth Avenue women’s store on Wilshire Boulevard and the surrounding properties. The project includes offices, retail space and residential units. The former women’s store would see its facade restored for a mixed-use project that could include a hotel, restaurant, spa, social club and retail. Nearby there would be two Class A office structures as well as two six-story residential buildings.
When these projects were revealed, HBC CEO Richard Baker explained that his company decided to change things around because it was frustrated with what was happening on Wilshire Boulevard, a four-lane thoroughfare filled with lots of cars but few pedestrians. There are a number of large retail vacancies on the street. Burberry used to be a presence on Wilshire until it moved a decade ago to Rodeo Drive where LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton has a major presence. It owns several buildings housing its brands, including Dior, Givenchy, Fendi, Loro Piana and Celine.
Now that Saks Fifth Avenue has moved its women’s store, there is a March 29 public scoping meeting at Beverly Hill’s City Hall on the development. The city is preparing a draft environmental impact report for the nearly four-acre project, and residents have until April 10 to comment on the project.
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