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How Marigay McKee Is Forging Change at Saks Fifth Avenue

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What do Saks Fifth Avenue's revamped fragrance section, upcoming shops-in-shop for luxe handbags, and a brand new downtown location have in common? The department store's president, Marigay McKee, who WWD says is responsible for "shaking up the New York retail scene."

McKee, a British transplant and former teacher, is at the helm of the store's $250 million renovation— a job she's not taking lightly. "When you have five million square feet of real estate space, you have to make a lot of investment in dollars to make it come into the 21st century. We will be investing a lot of money, very cautiously but well, to create something that I think will be spectacular," she said at a master class at Manhattan's new campus for Glasgow Caledonian University on Thursday night, adding that they're "cautiously invest[ing] on a journey to become America's foremost luxury retailer."

That journey includes adding new designers to the mix, such as Victoria Beckham, Roland Mouret, and Antonio Berardi. In total, up to 20 new labels will be introduced to New York City shoppers.

"It definitely is about evolution, not revolution," McKee continued. "We've seen a lot of brands that have attempted revolution and it's scary and sometimes it doesn't work. We have to know our customer ... There is a very, very savvy American customer very driven by technology that understands what they want, that does a lot of their source searching online, that want to come into the brick and mortar for the experience."

To enhance the in-person experience, she's putting an emphasis on customer service, which started with the reintroduction of doormen during Fashion Week. "First impressions really count," McKee told her audience. I like to walk through a store and say hello to people and have them say hello back. We have to become hosts and customers become guests."

She'll also have a role in planning special events for the department store, one of which will take place in Central Park. Though McKee didn't give much detail, the paper says it will involve "fashion, business, giving back to the community and the Central Park Conservancy."

"We've got our hands full but it's going to be an amazing experience. We have great plans, great ideas. It's going to be a very exciting journey to transform the bastion of American retail into the most luxurious department store brand in America ... and I think we are going to have a whale of a time doing it."
· Lessons From Saks' Marigay McKee [WWD]
· With Givenchy and Dior, the Saks Fragrance Revamp Is Complete [Racked NY]
· Saks Fifth Avenue Is Coming to Brookfield Place, Off Fifth Nearby [Racked NY]

Saks Fifth Avenue

611 5th Avenue, Manhattan, NY 10022 (212) 753-4000 Visit Website