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October 4, 2022
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DESIGNERS

Saks Fifth Avenue

Horace Saks and Bernard Gimbel, who both had separate retail establishments on New York’s 34th Street near Herald Square in the early 1900s, came up with the idea for Saks Fifth Avenue. Their goal was to establish a one-of-a-kind specialty shop that would come to be identified with chic and elegant living. The contribution of all of these wealthy merchant families was pooled together in order to acquire a piece of real estate on the top section of Fifth Avenue, between 49th and 50th Streets, which was at the time shared by the Democratic Club and the Buckingham Hotel. Saks Fifth Avenue was the first major retail establishment to set up shop in what was essentially a residential neighborhood when it opened its doors on September 15, 1924 under the guise of what its owners referred to as their “dream store.” Saks Fifth Avenue has become synonymous with refined style and taste in part because it provides men’s and women’s clothing of the highest possible quality and also provides an excellent program of customer care. The coming together of the Gimbel and Saks families was responsible for more than simply the establishment of the Saks Fifth Avenue department store. Adam Gimbel, who was 30 years old and Bernard’s cousin, started working as an assistant for Horace Saks. Adam Gimbel became President of Saks Fifth Avenue in 1926 after the untimely passing of Horace Saks. Adam Gimbel brought with him the visionary insight that has pushed Saks Fifth Avenue to the pinnacle of its glory. Horace Saks was the founder of Saks Fifth Avenue.

Adam Gimbel was also responsible for the establishment of the Saks department store empire, which now has locations stretching from coast to coast. When he finally hung up his spikes in 1969, he was already a living legend in his field. The first thing that Adam Gimbel did was to remodel the whole flagship store in the extravagant Art Moderne style that was popular during the 1925 Paris Exposition. He did this in order to create a variety of niche stores inside the great luxury of Saks Fifth Avenue. Adam went all over the globe in quest of the products that would distinguish Saks Fifth Avenue from other specialty shops. This journey was a demonstration of Adam’s intuitive insight, which he displayed throughout the journey. Twenty new shops were established around the nation between 1972 and 1989, the most of which were located in Texas and the Midwest. Additionally, eight older stores were upgraded to more modern locations within the same markets. 1978 saw the beginning of the refurbishment project for the New York flagship, which was followed by the addition of an escalator service the following year (1979) and the development of a 36-floor office and retail complex right behind the shop, which was finished in the spring of 1990. The section of this tower that was devoted to Saks and created in collaboration with the Swiss Bank Corporation led to an increase of roughly 30 percent in the amount of space available for retail sales at the New York City location.

1973 saw the acquisition of Saks & Company by BATUS, a subsidiary of B.A.T. Industries PLC. This was accomplished through BATUS’s purchase of Gimbel Bros., Inc. A new era in the history of Saks Fifth Avenue was ushered in when, in July of 1990, B.A.T. was replaced as the owner of Saks & Company by affiliates of Investcorp S.A. (“Investcorp”) together with a group of foreign investors. In 1990, Philip B. Miller started working for Saks Fifth Avenue, where he eventually became Vice Chairman of the company and a Director of Saks Holdings, Inc. In 1993, he was given the position of Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Saks Fifth Avenue, and in 1995, he was given the same titles at Saks Holdings, Inc.

Late in the year 1994, Saks Fifth Avenue embarked on a significant plan to bolster its presence on the West Coast by purchasing the Beverly Hills, Carmel, San Diego, and Phoenix locations of four former I. Magnin shops. These locations were previously occupied by Saks Fifth Avenue. With the opening of Saks West in August 1995 in Beverly Hills, Saks Fifth Avenue became the largest specialty store in Beverly Hills. With a combined square footage of 260,000 square feet between the expanded and renovated Saks East and the new Saks West, which houses all men’s categories as well as women’s special sizes, Saks Fifth Avenue is the largest specialty store in Beverly Hills (Petite Collections and Salon Z). Saks Fifth Avenue launched a new men’s shop in San Francisco on Post Street in August 1997, which resulted in extra space being made available for the sale of women’s designer goods at the existing San Francisco branch. The transfer of the Houston store to the Galleria on September 11, 1997 and the relocation of the Dallas shop inside the Dallas Galleria in September 1999 were both part of a plan to increase Saks Fifth Avenue’s presence in the state of Texas.

The long-term objective of becoming a public corporation was accomplished by Saks Fifth Avenue in 1996, when it did so under the name Saks Holdings, Inc. On May 21, 1996, the first public offering was successfully completed, and there are now 16 million shares in circulation. Up until September 1998, it could be found listing its shares on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker “SKS.”

Saks Fifth Avenue was incorporated as a subsidiary of Proffitt’s, Inc. on September 17, 1998, after the completion of a merger deal between Saks Holdings, Inc. and Proffitt’s, Inc., a major regional department store corporation, which took place on September 17, 1998. The corporate name of Proffitt’s, Inc. was changed to Saks Incorporated in line with the transaction, and on September 18, the stock started trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “SKS.”

Saks Fifth Avenue debuted its e-commerce website, saks.com, in the summer of 2000. The website has in-store categories in addition to unique items and information.

HBC, a holding company of portfolio firms that operate at the confluence of retail and real estate, completed the acquisition of Saks, Inc. on November 4, 2013.

In 2021, HBC entered into a partnership with Insight Partners to create Saks as an independent company that would be responsible for the online operations of Saks Fifth Avenue. Saks Fifth Avenue is revolutionizing the luxury shopping experience by establishing a seamless link between its locations and its online storefronts. This connection enables the brand to provide consumers with the familiar and enjoyable experience they have come to expect from the company.

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