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I received the latest Saks catalog yesterday and my hopes were raised, then partially dashed…just partially. I’ve been worried about Saks lately. Walking through their stores, I am completely outnumbered by sales people. In a way, I really like it as I can fantasize that I’m a celebrity and the store has been cleared out so I can shop in privacy. Or, it’s just a really crappy economy and no one is shopping these days. Saks has also reported poor financial results, although not out of line with other retailers, especially luxury retailers. What really got me concerned was when Saks started rock-bottom sale prices. I’m not saying that I DON’T want to save money, but this is a very dangerous business move. Would Saks turn into Macy’s – a once prestigious retailer, reduced to selling Jessica Simpson shoes and the atmosphere of TJ Maxx?

valuesThe inside cover of the catalog suggested Saks was back on track – they put their values and focus on display and I thought it was great.Here are a few examples that re-establish what Saks is all about and how they plan to compete in this economy. Number 1 – “We’re a fashion company”. Hurray! Yes, you are! Thank you for openly acknowledging it! I’m sick of the guilt associated with high fashion. It’s like the recession made people realize that high fashion doesn’t solve world hunger. No kidding. Can we just appreciate it for what it is? Number 2 – “No Un-Special Clothes” and Number 5 “No One Time Only Looks”. This is perfect. They simultaneously differentiate themselves (unique clothes) but also address the recessionary economy without going to price cuts (clothes that provide good value for the money – i.e. good investments). So my hopes were buoyed…

dress 2until I looked at the rest of the catalog. Pretty much the same stuff you see in every Saks catalog. In other words, a terrible branding move – making promises, but not changing anything else to back it up. Show us how the pieces work in multiple outfits. Show shoes other than sky-high heels, because, although I could wear them with different types of outfits, they’re not the most flexible (literally and figuratively) shoes.

(As a side note, the entire section of cocktail and formal dresses had no congruence with the value statements – these are the epitome of one time looks, not to mention they were the most boring and predictable party frocks I’ve seen in a while.)

That being said, there were a few items I fell in love with:

missoni1. Missoni dress – despite the fact that this is not a great color for me, I’ve lately fallen in love with egg-yolk yellow, plus I’m a sucker for arty ruffles. I love a dress you can throw on with tights and a cardigan.

alice and olivia2. Alice+Olivia cardigan – I am perpetually searching for dressy outfits for the winter. I’m way too cold for sleeveless or bare-back tops, but sweaters rarely hit the right combo of dressy and sexy. I think this cardigan is brilliant because it is definitely dressy AND sexy AND you can dress up basic outfits like black pants or jeans with it.

coach3. Coach purse – I’ve had a bit of a love-hate relationship with Coach lately. I hate seeing cheap, logo-laden Coach purses hanging in Macy’s, but I often drool when I pass the Coach storefront, with deeply-hued, rich leather hobos. This is the latter and I get weak in the knees for the color. This is a good compromise to get the color and the look without spending thousands on LV or Gucci.

jimmy choo4. Jimmy Choo gladiator heels – Ok, a completely impractical item but these are just sooooo sexy, I can’t help myself.

philosophy di alberta ferretti5. Philosophy di Alberta Ferretti dress – I’m not actually sure how flattering this would be on (I imagine it hanging heavily over my flat chest and looking droopy), but I’m intrigued by the detail and the idea of wearing a cashmere dress that I’m pretty sure would offset the chilliness of the bare shoulders. Could be another good dressy winter option…

les copains6. Les Copains dress – this is just adorable and I think it would add interesting detail to black tops and black tights.

Ok, Saks. You took me on an emotional roller coaster ride. I’m hoping you can sort out your confusion.