Saks Extends Its Brand of Personal Service to Luxury Resorts

Saks Fifth Avenue is rolling out its Fifth Avenue Club personal shopping and styling service to luxury resorts across America, WWD has learned.

It’s a novel initiative by Saks Fifth Avenue to reach a wider audience and deliver personal service in locations where it does not operate stores.

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“We have a roadmap to open 10 of these locations in 2023,” John Antonini, Saks Fifth Avenue’s senior vice president and director of stores, told WWD.

So far, three Fifth Avenue Club suites in resorts are open: in the Alohilani Resort in Waikiki, Honolulu; inside the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel in Laguna Beach, California, and in Napa Valley, California, at the Stanly Ranch, Auberge Resorts Collection. Saks had a store in Honolulu, which was closed during COVID-19.

Additional Fifth Avenue Club suites are expected to open in resort properties in Maui, Hawaii; Nashville, Tennessee; Orlando, Florida; Charleston, South Carolina; Deer Valley, Utah; Nantucket, Massachusetts, and Santa Fe, New Mexico. The names of the resort properties will be disclosed later, pending final confirmations.

Saks’ lead partner in the strategy is Marriott International and its portfolio of luxury brands including The Ritz-Carlton and St. Regis Hotels & Resorts, but other partners have been brought in as well.

The Fifth Avenue Club personal shopping service already operates in 30 of the 39 Saks Fifth Avenue stores in North America. “It represents a meaningful part of our business, and has always been a keystone of our business,” said Antonini, who estimated the Saks Fifth Avenue Club has been operating for at least 50 years.

With the new rollout strategy for the Fifth Avenue Club, “We opened our first test location in Honolulu last fall, which has been successful,” Antonini said. “We’re cherry-picking locations that will work for us.”

John Antonini
John Antonini

Saks is leasing suites in the resorts for a minimum of a year “to test the locations for the Fifth Avenue Club and understand the value of the market,” Antonini said. Small local teams, including a manager and a few stylists that are “connected” in their respective communities, have been recruited for the Fifth Avenue Club suites in the resorts.

“We also see a lot of value in co-marketing with our resort partners,” which will promote the Fifth Avenue Club suites on their websites, in social media, and on guides to the resort provided in the guest rooms, Antonini explained. “Most importantly, we’ll market to their guests pre-arrival. So if you’re checking into the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel, you would get a pre-arrival email that talks about Saks being part of the experience when you are in the resort,” Antonini said.

“Anything that you can experience in a Fifth Avenue club in a Saks Fifth Avenue store, you’re going to be able to experience in a Fifth Avenue Club suite in a resort, from food and beverage, to these beautiful environments for great personal styling. We also plan to host small events and activations in these spaces for our clients and in partnership with the resort, such as trunk shows, brand partnerships, jewelry events, charity events, birthday parties, corporate events.” The intent with the new Fifth Avenue Club suites is to attract both travelers to the resorts, and local shoppers as well, Antonini said.

Clients would make an appointment, consultations are done remotely to determine the client’s needs, and then the suite gets curated for the client by the time of arrival to the resort. Antonini said it will take Saks no longer than 48 hours to get the suite ready for a client’s arrival.

Asked if implementing Fifth Avenue Club suites in luxury resorts could be a prelude to opening Saks Fifth Avenue shops in the resorts, Antonini replied: “Travel and retail are so symbiotic. Customers shop when they travel and they shop for travel. So I would say the sky is the limit in terms of what the future of our partnerships with hotel brands looks like and what travel means for the future of Saks. Saks wants to be at the heart of our customers’ traveling.”

Saks has other travel-relations programs. Saks stylists have become “brand ambassadors” for Inspirato Incorporated, the luxury travel subscription service. Saks stylists receive training on Inspirato’s luxury travel subscription offerings, introduce Inspirato to their clients and are supported by Inspirato’s sales team, as well as multichannel marketing and brand collaborations. Inspirato members are encouraged to apply for the SaksFirst Card to receive Saks rewards. Saks has about 2,900 sales associates in its stores.  Saks also partners with United Airlines and its international business class program called Polaris, providing Saks logo-ed bedding. Saks bedding is also available on United flights from New York to Los Angeles and San Francisco flights in first and business class.

On Wednesday night, Saks and Marriott hosted a dinner at The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, which overlooks the Pacific Ocean, where guests saw the Saks personal shopping suite. Tina Edmundson, president of luxury for Marriott International, said her company would “welcome the Fifth Avenue Club to select hotels and resorts within our luxury brand portfolio.”

The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel.
The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel.

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