Saks Fifth Avenue says traffic hasn’t dropped as coronavirus cases rise


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Luxury retailer Saks Fifth Avenue said it hasn’t seen a change in shopping patterns in Florida, Texas and other states where coronavirus cases are rising.

On CNBC’s “Closing Bell,” Saks Fifth Avenue President Marc Metrick said shoppers are still going to stores to buy handbags, shoes and other items.

“We’re still seeing the traffic there,” he said. “We talk to our store, our teams everyday and they’re telling us they’re really not feeling it or seeing it in traffic or even in the attitude and the sensibilities in how they’re shopping.”

He said the company is watching that carefully, but “on the top line, we haven’t seen it.”

The U.S. hit a record number of new coronavirus cases in a single day on Wednesday, as Covid-19 spreads rapidly in states in the south and the west. Those states were among the first to loosen coronavirus restrictions.

The surge in cases prompted Apple to close stores for a second time in Texas, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina and Arizona in recent days, even though state governments have not mandated such measures.

Saks’ has reopened all 40 of its stores, including its flagship in New York City that reopened Wednesday. It is one of the luxury retailers trying to bounce back from temporary closures during the coronavirus pandemic and nudge customers to return to its stores.

To put customers at ease, Saks stepped up cleaning and has new ways to shop. Customers can book a virtual appointment with a sales associate via video chat, retrieve purchases or make returns through curbside pickup and reserve a dressing room in advance. It has ultraviolet handrail cleaners on its escalators and hand sanitizer stations scattered throughout its stores.

Saks, like Tiffany and other stores in Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue shopping district, typically gets a bounce in sales from tourists visiting New York City. That travel, especially from other countries, has all but vanished during the pandemic.

Metrick said Saks can draw business from locals instead.

“Because of people being a little bit more captive where they are, it’s going to be less coming in, but also less going out,” he said. “So I think it’s going to balance out well for us as we go through this next few months.”

Shuttered stores during virus-related lockdowns have deepened the woes of many department stores that were already struggling to hold on to customers. Neiman Marcus and J.C. Penney filed for bankruptcy. Macy’s on Thursday said it would slash 3,900 corporate jobs. Other retailers, such as Nordstrom, have raised money, drawn down credit or tapped advisors.

Saks’ owner Hudson’s Bay is trying to raise about $800 million to $900 million from investors to strengthen its finances, according to a Reuters report.

Metrick said Saks hasn’t changed its mix of inventory, such as adding more casualwear, or made decisions about what it may look like in the future.

“We are in the unknown right now,” he said. “We have to wait. We have to get through this period. We have to start getting to the next normal to understand.”

“You could be wearing an evening gown to a friend’s house for dinner. Who knows?”



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