The New Luxury Vision with Saks CEO Marc Metrick

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In this episode, Marc Metrick, Saks Fifth Avenue President & CEO speaks with Oliver Chen, Cowen Retail and Luxury Goods analyst. They discuss what New Luxury means for stores, customers, product, and experience innovation. They also speak about new platforms, the connected retail experience, COVID-19’s impact on luxury goods, and the department store experience in the new normal. Press play to listen to their conversation.

The Retail Visionaries Podcast Series features thought leaders across retail, new platforms, and luxury on the most pertinent topics in these industries.

Transcript

Speaker 1:                       Welcome to Cowen Insights, a space that brings leading thinkers together to share insights and ideas shaping the world around us. Join us as we converse with the top minds who are influencing our global sectors.

Oliver Chen:                    Hi, thank you for joining us on this exciting podcast on the future of luxury with the CEO of Saks Fifth Avenue, Marc Metrick. My name’s Oliver Chen. I’m Cowen’s retail and luxury analyst. We’ll be kicking off our retail and luxury podcast series on the topic of the future of luxury. Thrilled to be joined by Marc Metrick. He’s president and CEO of Saks Fifth Avenue. By way of background, Marc joined Saks’ executive training program in 1995, eventually becoming its chief strategy officer. In 2015, he was promoted to the president of Saks Fifth Avenue. He has a long, illustrious career in retail, and I particular think of him as a left and right brain expert and an executor as well.

                                         The luxury and department store space has seen undergoing disruption in recent years with the rise of digital and E-commerce platforms. Our view is Saks has responded by trying to innovate and elevate the in-store shopping experience and developing its own digital capabilities. Marc, I’d love to start off by asking you your latest thoughts on what are the three biggest changes in the luxury industry now, and how is Saks positioned to compete?

Marc Metrick:                 Yeah, hi Oliver. Thanks for having me today. It’s always great to chat with you. Look, I think today obviously when you ask about challenges you might get a much different answer, so what I want to do is step back and be just a little bit more abstract. Not abstract, but from a different perspective than the current crisis that we’re living in.

                                         I would tell you, if you think about the big changes, really it’s the verticalization of our supplier base. I think that’s been a big and evolving move over the last, call it, decade, but really has accelerated and become amplified over the last year or so. Then you have the introduction, or shall I say again amplification, of the E-commerce push which it was built for luxury, and it’s really going, and really changing and disrupting how we do business. Then last, I would say, data being the great equalizer. I think forever luxury had the grip on data, knowing the consumer, and having that personal relationship with them. I think that data and people’s ability to mine it and really get after it has changed and really equalized our is equalizing the table.

Oliver Chen:                    Marc, one theme we think about is this theme of magic plus logic. How do you integrate data into the customer experience, and what are you thinking about at Saks in terms of a connected customer journey?

Marc Metrick:                 Yeah. You answered the question. I think really the magic is the consumer wants to feel like when they enter Saks, they’re entering our ecosystem. The challenge with bricks and mortar retailers that have gone digital versus the native pure plays are that our processes, our systems, everything was built around the store interaction. Then we plopped these digital stores on top of them, and the pipes aren’t as connected as you’d want them to be if you opened up your business in 2010.

                                         The consumer feels like their relationship with Saks starts when they enter our web browser and goes all the way through to when they’re standing in our store checking out or when they’re calling our customer service lines. We really needed to do better to make sure that the customer’s entire journey through Saks is one journey and not two or three individual journeys that then can even be splintered further with each transaction being its own journey. You could have one customer across our digital experience, our bricks experience, and our contact centers. One transaction could have three different touchpoints, and then if they transact twice it’s exponential.

                                         I think the future, for us, is one, connecting those journeys seamlessly, but most importantly Oliver, as you look and you ask me what’s your raison d’etre, it’s going to be my stylists in my stores. Getting them the right data, arming them the with the right level of information about the consumer, so that they can better serve the consumer’s needs in a faster, more efficient way. That’s how I’m going to win.

Oliver Chen:                    Marc, you’ve had the benefit of seeing decades in retail. Calling Saks an ecosystem is quite unique in itself. How has the Saks brand and what experiential retail means at all changed in your tenure in the industry?

Marc Metrick:                 I started at Saks when I think department stores, they were at the center of it. They were the arbiter. They were the authenticator. They built the brands. They were the platform. I think the biggest shift you’ve seen in our industry happened while I’ve been at Saks.

                                         Again, it’s been a long time, but is the brands essentially became the hero. The brands became central to the consumer’s relationship with Saks. As you think about the evolution of what our place is in luxury, our place has moved from being, so to speak, the launchpad or the singular platform to we are the editor. We are the fashion authenticator from the standpoint of if we’re carrying the brand, it means something. It means luxury, it means quality, it means authenticity, and you’re going to need that in a world where almost anyone can say anything in the DTC environment. That’s how we play it.

                                         As far as experience goes, I think in luxury, Oliver, and I’m very careful because not department stores, in luxury, shopping is still an experience. The feeling, the touching is theater, and I do believe that the stores like ours have a very important place in that.

Oliver Chen:                    Marc, what do you think about your customer profile and customer demographics? What do the customers of today care about versus, call it, 10 years ago?

Marc Metrick:                 I think again in luxury and when you think about so many of the important things we’re facing as a fashion community right now, some of them are inward. I think luxury is later to the sustainability party, I think, than others. We could talk about that for hours. I think that what’s tried and true, what’s really important to the consumer in luxury has always been which is phenomenally great product, beautiful fashion first and before anybody else. That’s what the customer that’s walking into Saks wants.

                                         We’re learning that if there was a proof of concept behind that, Oliver, it’s now. It’s in this pandemic and this crisis. People are still reacting to fashion. They still want fashion. They still want newness. They still want the brands, even in the time when I couldn’t tell you three places they’re wearing it, and that’s because that’s what’s important to our customer, not because they’re deep, and the environment’s important to them, and all that. It’s just for Saks, for luxury product, product is the hero here. Fashion is the hero.

Oliver Chen:                    Marc, that opens up to a few topics. What do you see with online and digital at Saks and luxury goods at large with penetration and also differentiation happening over time? Also, the pandemic and the crisis, what are some permanent versus accelerated changes, and what’s been surprising to you?

Marc Metrick:                 We’ll start with the digital question. Looks, I think Saks is already fairly well penetrated in its digital space. It’s tough to look at it, Oliver as you might, on a pure metrics basis because we do considerable amounts of volume with folks who don’t train online at all globally. When you take those out of the denominator, we’re a fairly well penetrated digital business.

                                         I see that penetration obviously going up over time with channel shift, but I’ll say this. I’ll say the stores still are going to be important because they’re the theater. I think that the digital arena is for transaction and the physical is for experience. It’s why there’s going to always be a place for marketplace online, and luxury marketplace, and Saks.com, and others. I think it’s important, and it’s where our investment is being made right now because you need to make sure you answer the bell with the most frictionless, easy experience that you can have. At the same time, I do think that in luxury, the theater is as important as it’s ever been.

                                         As far as right now in the pandemic, and what we’re learning, and what we’re seeing, and what’s permanent, the beautiful thing about what we do, and Oliver you’re so close to the industry, it’s always changing. This crisis, and it’s been changing, has been an accelerant I think of what was already going to be happening over the next couple of years. I don’t see much of what’s changing right now being not around anymore. I see it changing. Am I going to have hundreds of Purell hand sanitizing stations around my stores in three years? No, but am I going…

                                         Look at the buy online, pick up in store, stuff you’ve been talking about for years. It just got really introduced in a big way to the luxury consumer, but it was always coming. You think about new ways of shopping. People want to shop where there’s less people shopping. That’s not a new phenomenon, private shopping, virtual shopping. Who wouldn’t love to get on a Zoom while sitting on their couch in Boca Raton, Florida and shop our flagship store with their stylist literally on video? I think a lot of these things are going to be there for a while which is great, and they’ll change. That’s why at Saks we’re not calling it back to normal or the new normal. We’re calling it the next normal because it’s going to be iterative over the next few years for sure.

Oliver Chen:                    Will the next normal be the roaring 20s? What are you seeing with the creative process? Because this has been a really unique time for designers to sit back, and think, and innovate with the product pipelines too.

Marc Metrick:                 Yeah, I think when you think about the roaring 20s there’s so many parallels that can be drawn from the Spanish Flu, into COVID, into the roaring 20s, into what we’re going to be seeing when we come out of this. I certainly feel like people are going to want to experience things differently, and they’re going to feel… There’s going to be a lot of excitement.

                                         I do think that there’s going to be, as there always is recently, there’s going to be a lot of noise around this. I don’t think we’re going to be coming out like a rocket ship on whatever day somebody says we should be coming out like a rocket ship, but yes, the creative process is definitely going to be tilted as much towards escapism, and as much towards fun, and just people really enjoying themselves.

                                         We’ve already started with that. Our holiday theme, Oliver, is This is How We Celebrate. It’s because this was a concept that was born over the summer, and it’s really about what we play right now in the customer’s life. The consumer looks to us for escapism, for a sense of normalcy, for something that’s not serious.

                                         It’s interesting, our email… We talked about creative. Our emails that were going out even as early as April and May, we had ones that were all casual, and home goods, and things that you and I would say are obvious, and that’s how we should be tilting on marketing, but our open rates on our fashion content were much higher and much better. The consumer responded to those. Whether or not they were buying it, they opened the email, they went onto the site, they looked at what the product was because fashion is still important today. I think when we come out of this or as we come out of it, as we re-enter, is the other words we’re using at Saks, re-entry is going to be around fashion, fun, and excitement for sure.

Oliver Chen:                    Marc, you mentioned theater a few times. What does that mean to you, and how do you permeate that through the organization? What does fashion mean to you as well? How do intersect this idea of innovation and fashion because fashion means different things to different people?

Marc Metrick:                 Sure, let’s start with that one. I think at its core, fashion is how one identifies themselves to everybody else. Fashion isn’t just clothes. Fashion isn’t just leather goods and shoes. Fashion is how you present yourself outwardly. It doesn’t have to be something with a logo on it. It could just be your point of view. It’s expression. Fashion is much deeper for me than maybe people might think it is, but that’s what it means at its core.

                                         As far as when you think about, I guess, innovation, innovation is always at the forefront of what we’re doing. Nobody likes product, and that’s a word that we were using for generations in our industry. There were always designers where you look at their collection from one season to the next and say, “Where’s the innovation?” It didn’t mean, the iPhone 11 to the iPhone 12, what innovation means today. It meant product innovation. It meant is there a new color? Is there a new style? Are they changing the fit? Are they re-approaching the sensibility of the product? Are the fibers different? Innovation is what makes fashion go. They’re very much connected.

                                         As far as theater, and it’s interesting because I used to use a great example, Oliver. I used to say, “You don’t stream Hamilton. You stream House of Cards. You go the theater to see Hamilton, and then you download the soundtrack on iTunes.” Of course, now they’re streamed Hamilton because this pandemic is the greatest equalizer of all, but there’s something about being there, feeling it, being part of it. In luxury, that’s what the store can be.

                                         The store is going to be there. With the prices that people are paying, with the amount of touch and quality that’s required for people to understand and ascertain the value for, it’s always going to be important to have that because I guarantee you the millions of people that watched Hamilton when it streamed over the summer would still want to see it in the theater once it’s safe. They wouldn’t say, “Oh, I’ve seen it already.” There’s no way. I think there’s a place for the digital experience, and I think there’s a place for the physical.

Oliver Chen:                    Well Marc, what about the problem with traffic and getting less footsteps in your store relative to conversion and purpose driven shopping? Also, you’ve been an architect of reinventing footprints and also renovating your flagship in a major way. Traffic’s been a problem in the industry.

Marc Metrick:                 I think it’s always dangerous to paint the industry with such a broad brush. Look, going into the pandemic which is the new… That’s how we’re going to have to size things. I’m sure you do it all the time. Saks was positive comps for 11 of 12 quarters. I would tell you the cager in our stores was slightly positive over that time frame. Traffic is one thing. Conversion is another. When you say it’s intent based, that’s okay because that’s why you might have digital platforms, to drive that intent. That’s why I do call it an ecosystem. That’s why when we started at Saks in 2015, and I looked at my marketing, and somebody said, “Oh, digital marketing all gets charged to the internet’s business, and the traditional marketing all gets charged to the store’s business.” Then we did some multi touch attribution, and we did some media mix modeling, and we realized that our digital marketing was driving a ton of store volume, even more store volume than digital volume.

Oliver Chen:                    Yeah, and vice-versa.

Marc Metrick:                 Yeah. It’s almost like you can’t look at it like that. I don’t look at traffic. I don’t look at my channel comps anymore because the customer is so agnostic to how they experience the brand that the way I look at it, Oliver, is what percentage of my customers today are shopping both channels and what should the goal be versus this is the penetration of your business that’s digital because that’s meaningless. The higher that is, the worse I’m doing in my stores. I always get disappointed when other retailers start bragging about it because we have a responsibility to the consumer to differentiate between the pure plays and the natives, the native digital guys. We have to really be playing in both platforms.

Oliver Chen:                    Yeah, for the connected experience and also customer engagement and retention.

Marc Metrick:                 Yeah, and again harder to do in more moderate space where it’s much more of a transactional experience, but in luxury, you got to mix it up.

Oliver Chen:                    Marc, product-wise, you and I have been great friends for a long time, Saks has been on top of thinking about streetification, casualization, and the constant redefining of luxury product and what that means. What’s happening with product trends and the casualiziation factor as well as how luxury is thinking about different kinds of active and street wear too?

Marc Metrick:                 I say this with all the humility in the world, I have probably the best chief merchant in the world, Tracy Margolies, and her team, and Roopal Patel, our fashion director. These guys, they’re the ones that do all that. I’m just a customer like you, but I’ll tell you this. Right now what’s helping our business, Oliver, over the last, call it, five months or so, Saks has been positive versus last year in business. That’s with a basically flat store performance, and that’s from a rolling basis from when we started opening our stores. I would tell you that what’s carrying us right now is the fact that going into the crisis, we nailed the fashion the right way.

                                         It goes back to what you said. The team was already on to the casualization. Men’s at Saks, which is our fastest growing business right now and through the pandemic, has just been on fire across the entire franchise, not just footwear, everything. What I see is, again, what the pandemic has done is it has just accelerated, I think, the casualization of what people are doing.

                                         I think what I would call it, and I’m not going to pretend… I think Tracy and Roopal handle this, but just what I’m seeing right now is a little bit of schizophrenic approach from the consumer. I think what we’re going to see is people are going to want to get super casual at times, and then they’re going to want to get really dressed up, especially coming out of this. Your parallel to the roaring 20s, I think there are people that are like, “I just can’t wait to get dressed up again.”

                                         I think we are going to see some of that, but at the same time, I think people are learning how to go to work a different way. When I say casual, I think it’s a more elevated casual. I think some of the big winners are going to be the usual suspects that you see in that, like Brunello Cucinelli, those types of brands.

                                         I think what’s happening with the streetification and there, that’s going to continue to evolve. What I love about that trend is it’s been a trend that’s been adopted by incredibly creative and talented people who are twisting it and bending it through their own lens, whether it’s Kim Jones at Dior. He’s a great example, and now he’s at Fendi doing the same thing. It’s for men, they’re not just going street and then running to the other ditch. They’re really taking this and evolving it, so I think those types of trends are going to continue. It’s really exciting, and not just because Oliver, you and I are focused on it personally. Watching what’s happening in men’s fashion is really important right now because we started five years ago at Saks by saying, “men are the new women,” and it’s beyond that now. I think men are really finding their own way, and it’s been exciting to watch.

Oliver Chen:                    Yeah, the opportunity for brands is to remain culturally relevant which has shifted. I think one way to think about what we’re seeing is fantastical or functional, and functional meaning adding value and pushing it to the next level where you’re offering a lot of features. Then fantastical is really this fashion play, and the newness, and the factor, but refined classics and the evolution of innovation with classics is a big topic too. Marc, why is men’s working now? What are some of the attributes in the marketplace that you’ve seen on a multi year basis and you’ve really been able to capitalize on that at Saks?

Marc Metrick:                 I think first to take care, there’s been a ton of innovation in this space. When you think about men’s even 10 years ago, it was all about uniformity. It was everyone wore the suit, and the tie, and it was great. Some of the daring guys took the tie off, and they called themselves business casual, but really let’s be honest. I think the innovation here, it goes to being able to, again, express yourself through fashion, no matter whether you’re an equity research analyst, an investment banker, an attorney, working in fashion. Wherever you were, you were able to do it, so I think that’s important.

                                         I think that, and I said this in an interview, got I trouble for it a bunch of years ago when we opened our store in downtown New York, footwear is a gateway drug to fashion. It was for women, and it was for men. I think men entered that, stepped in, no pun intended, and really kept going, and pushing, and pushing, and pushing.

                                         Then again, you answered your own question with functionality. I think that men are finding that they can wear really nice clothes, and be able to personalize themselves which again, the whole personalization push, the whole individuality push that’s happening right now gave men and opportunity to say, “This is what I want to wear, and this is who I want to be.” I think there’s years and years of evolution here.

Oliver Chen:                    Marc, you mentioned re-commerce earlier, and Supreme has been a really interesting brand too. We cover stocks like the RealReal. What does that really mean for you as Saks traditionally sold and sells new items versus thinking about the post-purchase?

Marc Metrick:                 I think that it’s good, and I’ll use the word again, ecosystem because I do believe one, it enhances the value of the new. If I think I can get a couple of thousand dollars for a bag after I’m done using it, I might pay a couple of thousand dollars more for it. It certainly is, on that side of it, helpful. I think a certain level of accessibility for luxury is a good thing. It really helps the entire ecosystem. I’ve not gotten into that business at this point, and it’s because I think there needs to be a very high level of authenticity when it comes to Saks that what you’re getting is obviously real, and you can count on it, and the quality is there, and it’s not going to break. Once you introduce, even if it’s gently pre-worn, you break that code with the consumer.

                                         I’m not saying never. I’m just saying we have to figure out ways to make sure that we can do it in a way that represents Saks as a brand we want to be. I’m not opposed to it at all. Again, I think it helps. The way I describe it to folks not in our industry, Oliver, is leasing cars. 35 years ago when people were still buying cars, the sticker price on a car was $50,000 for a luxury car, $40,000 for a luxury car, and that was expensive. Then when you can lease them, and you can finance them, and you can have that beautiful car, if you wanted to walk in and buy that same beautiful car today, time values money aside, that same car is $75,000. As long as we treat it with the respect and with the care that luxury product requires, there’s a place for it, for sure.

Oliver Chen:                    Yeah, certified pre-owned and rethinking that, and the authentication of goods and luxury. What about your customers, Marc, the aspirational customer relative to a VIP, high end customer? Luxury can traditionally have a high degree of concentration at the top where top customers drive a material percentage of revenues. On the other hand, there’s a large aspirational opportunity too.

Marc Metrick:                 Look, we’re watching. It’s interesting right now. It’s going to be case studies for business schools. When you look at the consumer now, the aspirational is actually what’s driving our business through the pandemic, and that is honestly because of the experiential, or lack of experiential opportunity, for them to spend. If they can’t take the golf trip, if they can’t go on the girl’s trip to Vegas or whatever, if they can’t go out to eat a bunch of times, they’re going to buy that product. That’s going to be their new splurge. Luxury goods are the comfort food of the aspirationals right now. It’s the splurge. It’s the I’m going to treat myself because I can’t treat myself any other way.

                                         They’re important because what’s great about an aspirational consumer, Oliver, at least in luxury, is today they’re aspirational. Tomorrow they’re core. That’s why I’m always careful to understand if you look at our core customer, to your point a smaller percentage of the overall count, but a very fair representation of the volume, they might be less interested if they had to rank their priorities about the sustainability of product or where we stand with fur. At the same time, this aspirational consumer where those things are incredibly important. They are today your aspirational customer, but as they grow in their careers, as she moves from associate to partner, or as she goes from being a doctor in the hospital to having her own practice, whatever it is, or he, we need to be there with them, and we need to be relevant in their lives the way they’re relevant. The aspirational plays an incredibly important role in our strategies, but more as a future proofing than in the current.

Oliver Chen:                    Marc, that sounds really critical, converting the aspirational to core, and I’m sure you think about this every day. What are some of the key principles you’re following, and what’s important as your north star in making that happen?

Marc Metrick:                 If you think all the way back to January 2020, it feels like 10 years ago. Saks put a new strategy out called luxury disrupted, and it was really all geared towards making sure that we were there when this aspirational customer arrived. There’s a lot of reasons, Oliver, why we see this as being a lot more important than it was maybe 20 years ago. I think everything’s going to move faster. I think there’s going to be a tremendous amount of wealth transfer in the US over the next few years that’s going to change the face of who the customer is.

                                         I also think that the aspirationals are having much more impact on the Boomers, and their shopping behaviors, and how they react, and how you market to them. While the core is still there, and the Boomers are still an incredibly important part of our consumer base, they’re getting younger also. They’re moving, and what’s important to them today is going to shift. We’ve put a strategy out that really stood for personalization and ease were the really two big pushes about what we were going to do.

                                         It used to be, Oliver, just about having the product. If you had the product, and she had the relationship or he had the relationship with their stylist in the store, you were the winner. Today’s strategy is all about how you make it easier for them, how you personalize their experience through the use of data, but not with a bot, with their stylist. Those two pillars, personalization and ease, are incredibly important as we try to move this aspirational to core.

                                         Then, of course, it’s all behind the number one which is don’t forget the fashion because I do believe that one of the pitfalls of a lot of department stores over time is they lost track of who they were in the consumer’s life. We’re not the consumer’s scientist. We’re not their political expert. We are their purveyor and authenticator, and really their place of fashion. That’s what we are. We’re not a golf range, not a salt spa, all the experiential noise that was out on the marketplace. At the end of the day, you come to Saks for fashion. It’s our job to make it [crosstalk].

Oliver Chen:                    There’s a face gym and a great place to [crosstalk].

Marc Metrick:                 That’s right.

Oliver Chen:                    It’s a destination, a trusted destination, and those aspects of convenience, curation, and culture, that’s the framework we think of and call it the three C’s. Marc, what about platforms like Farfetch. Farfetch signed a deal with Harrods, for example, and Farfetch has this landmark deal I’ve written about with Alibaba and Richemont. What will happen there? One of your first statements was increased verticalization of brands as well. How do you see this evolving over time, whether you think about brands going direct to consumer and/or new digital platforms or ecosystems?

Marc Metrick:                 I think what Farfetch, Jose’s great. He’s an innovator, and he’s a good thinker, and the team there has done a fantastic job. They are a facilitator of veriticalization. The marketplace gives folks the ability yo sell direct to consumer without the infrastructure requirements of having a fully integrated digital experience themselves. I think that’s what that is. That’s out there. It’s been out there. I think for us, again, we don’t try to beat them at their game.

                                         We’re going to be evolving and developing marketplace functionality. We’re going to be out there, and we just relaunched Saks.com actually in the middle of the pandemic. We re-platformed our entire digital experience with Salesforce Commerce Cloud. We were already in-flight with massive investment in technology. Over the years, we’ve been investing in technology that fuses together our in-store selling stylists with our digital experience. We’re developing ways not to combat against the verticalization of the brands themselves, but to be an alternative when the consumer wants something less specific, less transactional. If they wake up in the morning, and they want product X, and that’s all they want, and they want it, and they want it fast, my job is to make it so they can get it from us. Really, what I’m here for is if they want to shop, if they want an experience, if they want a point of discovery quickly, easily, and without friction, that’s where I want to win.

Oliver Chen:                    Thank you for that. Marc, which part of the job is the most fun for you? What part is would you say the hardest part of your job as well?

Marc Metrick:                 I think the most fun part, and this is why I fell in love with the business, and you won’t admit this, but it’s probably what keeps you in love with the business, is the pulse of it. It is so fast, and it is so different from any other business or industry that you could be in. When I graduated college in ’95, I was going to work for two years, and go into business school, and go into banking or do something like that. I quickly was just, honestly fell in love with the change, and the pace, and the consumer, and never really knowing the answer, and having to find the answer, and almost being responsible for coming up with the answer, and giving the answer to other people. I love that. That’s the most fun part of it.

                                         At the same time, right now as we find ourselves in such an amazing period of change, some of it systemic and already there as it relates to the industry and what was happening going in, and then the accelerant poured on top of this change that’s been burning with COVID, is definitely very challenging. Everything from worrying about the health and safety of our teams and our customers, what the shopping experience is going to be like, and how to make it safer, and how to make people feel more comfortable, and how to make it feel fun when so much else around people isn’t. That’s certainly the most challenging part.

Oliver Chen:                    Thanks for that, Marc. Marc, in closing I just wanted to ask your take on advice, advice for brands seeking to innovate and be culturally relevant? Advice for also investors of retailers, what’s often overlooked? Thirdly, advice for students or those interested in joining retail? Any closing remarks you may have as well.

Marc Metrick:                 Sure. I think the advice for investors is people should not paint the entire industry with the same brush. I think there were strategically flawed or capital structure impaired, lots of different reasons department stores coming into this were going to struggle. Not all of them were and not all of them are struggling through this. There are great department store companies that are going to come out of this and be better than ever. I want people to understand that.

                                         As far as advice to brands who want to go direct to consumer, I would just make sure that people understand again the raison d’etre for a department store, for a multi-branded fashion emporium like a Saks. Understand its value. Going to direct to consumer, it sounds easier, and it’s maybe more efficient from a cost perspective. Obviously you have 100% control of your brand, but at the same time, the consumers, they want to know from an arbiter. They want to know from someone who’s got no specific intent as it relates to your brand except for making it great. They want to get that perspective. I think multi-branded environments are very important to complement your direct to consumer launches and things like that. That’s advice I would give three years ago, five years ago, and then certainly today and tomorrow.

                                         As far as students and folks who are thinking about retail as a career, I would again, I would recommend that they look at it because retail is such a dynamic and changing industry. People think about department stores or retail. They think about the sales jobs on the floor, or they think about the buying office. They’re not thinking about data science. We can have more data scientists than anybody working at Saks 10 years from now, five years from now, three years from now. There’s data science, there’s planning and design, there’s creative. There’s analytics. There’s so many different functions inside of our industry that are great. The industry itself, going through such a dynamic change, it’s like joining a startup right now. I tell my team all the time, we’re a 97 year old startup.

Oliver Chen:                    Marc, that was excellent help and excellent thoughts around what you’re doing. Clearly, Saks is a trusted destination, and you’ve created an innovative ecosystem. I also agree with change. In disruption there’s opportunity and also rethinking what magic is, and luxury, and what logic is, and how to really bind those together to drive an emotional experience that’s highly convenient. Marc, thanks for your time. It’s always great to spend quality time with you. Look forward to seeing you in the flagship.

Marc Metrick:                 Thanks, Oliver. See you soon.

Speaker 1:                       Thanks for joining us. Stay tuned for the next episode of Cowen insights.


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