No Saks please, we’re Canadian

Saks Fifth Avenue opened its first store in Canada today and while I missed the ribbon-cutting I did do a walkabout and can report that it is a bizarre bazaar. First off, it isn’t really a store. It’s 180,000 square feet on three floors within The Bay. There are goods from The Bay below in the basement as well as above on the fourth floor and to the west on all floors. Let’s call it a nestling.

Much of the first floor is boutiques run by other marques. Positioned in niches around the perimeter are numerous well-known names such as Piaget, Saint Laurent and Boucheron plus three handbag lines alone – Céline, Louis Vuitton and Valentino – with more handbags from Prada and Dior coming in the spring. Most of the bags looked big enough for two and with a price tag that required a two-income household. Several hours later the smell of fragrances sold on that floor permeates my nostrils still.

There seemed to be more space without any displays than actual selling area. The first floor in particular, festooned as it was in orchids, yawned in expanse where there was nothing. The second floor (women’s accessories and men’s fashion) and third (women’s fashion) were more traditional in style and substance.

The event certainly attracted a crowd and next week’s Saks opening at Sherway Gardens likely will, too. But here’s the bottom line. In the entire thirty minutes I spent gawking, guess how many of the black bags I saw with the white Saks logo and beribboned closure bearing goods actually bought on site: one. I wish them well, but in retail terms Canada is a third-world country. I really wonder if there are enough people here with sufficient funds to keep the place open.

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