Saks Wakes Up and Expands its Petite Department
There is a somewhat happy ending to report from yesterday's NY Times, in reaction to the news last month regarding Petite section disappearance at Saks, Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdales. Michael Barbaro's follow up piece, Saks Restores Petite Sizes After Outcry, details that Saks will reinstate and even expand its petite department after receiving so many complaints from its former (and soon to be again) clients. Too bad that the other two giant department stores haven't decided to do the same.
It's not often that a high profile and high end department store admits fault and corrects itself. And even though I've never really stepped into Saks on a regular basis, I gotta give the managers at Saks my admiration for listening to its customers and doing right by them. I only feel sort of bad for not personally writing the company myself. Maybe it's time for me to start taking a look around Saks more regularly. With the added publicity from the whole debacle, perhaps Saks can start pulling its petite sales out of the red.
What's a little scary is how much the triple whammy of Saks, Neiman, and Bloomingdales can really influenced designers and suppliers. Designers send a lot of their mechandise to department stores, where they can benefit from the additional exposure, marketing, and volume sales. The shockwave of three major chains pulling the plug on petite sizing meant that staying in petites was a shaky proposition for any label. Ellen Tracy, in fact, announced that it would no longer carry petites - and also reversed its decision immediately after Saks did.
Can designers survive without department store support? Maybe, but it's sure harder without their help. Department stores like Saks have a huge influence on what gets made, what's in, and can try to force trends themselves.
And so its up to the department store to be more proactive with their designer relationships. I cannot help but heap blame again on the stores themselves for cultivating the 'dowdy' image that they hold of petites. As they have such a huge influence on designers on whether to even bother making a line, they surely can insist that the stuff better fit in (and fit better!) with the fashionable image they want to cultivate. Saks is taking a great lead and insists that when the petite section reimerges in the fall, it will inject more energy and variety into the section instead of just focusing on classic workwear. It realized it wasn't doing a good job addressing the lifestyle needs of its petite customer.
I wish Saks good luck - and I can't wait to check out the new section!