Saks Fifth Avenue Catches A Wave Of Talent With New Accelerator Program
Saks Fifth Avenue is invested in new talent.
With the Delta variant rearing its head, the upscale retailer is throwing its weight behind a spate of up-and-coming designer labels that will differentiate its offering at a time when consumers need a little extra incentive to visit stores.
The New Wave, a roster that includes Ashya, BruceGlen, Busayo, Kimberly Goldson, LaQuan Smith, Reese Cooper, A.W.A.K.E. MODE and Alejandra Alonso Rojas has launched at the upscale retailer as part of an accelerator program aimed at supporting and developing high-potential independent brands and speeding their growth at Saks, and ultimately, the greater fashion landscape.
“Through this program, Saks has been working closely with the brands on all different facets of their business,” said Anna Irving, senior vice president and general merchandise manager of women’s designer ready-to-wear at Saks Fifth Avenue.
Saks is projecting an 80% percent increase in volume of the eight labels in 2022, and expects the brands to collectively drive a roughly seven-figure business.
Saks started by developing a list of exciting emerging brands, which were then vetted by the retailer’s executive team, Irving said, adding, “We then identified the brands that had significant growth potential, but needed more support to scale. While some of these brands had been in business for quite some time. It was clear they could benefit from sharing our knowledge, resources, and network, whether in design, merchandising, marketing, or business development.”
Saks wasn’t necessarily looking to fill white spaces in its assortment, Irving told me, but rather, wanted to highlight labels by Black, Indigenous and People of Color, emphasizing independent talent as well as BIPOC companies.
“We ensured that half of the brands are BIPOC-owned, furthering Saks’ commitment to increasing representation in its assortment,” Irving said. “All of the brands chosen are ones that we felt offered a totally new fashion perspective to the customer and had great potential to scale.”
The year-long accelerator program offers an onboarding bootcamp, mentorship, and entrepreneurial workshops to help brands gain the skills and insights needed to grow their businesses at Saks and beyond.
Each brand will be eligible to receive a $10,000 end-of-program grant to support their business operations and growth, as well as dedicated marketing support from Saks. And as the presenting sponsor of the program, Mastercard
Saks mentorship opportunities will be offered to each designer, with functional expertise to support each brand’s specific needs and gaps in their businesses. Accelerator designers will have Q&A sessions with established talents including Thom Browne, Jonathan Simkhai, Jason Wu and Loeffler Randall’s Jessie Randall, among others.
The program offers 360-degree immersion on topics such as financial strategy, and supply chain and product development and production. There will be a sales strategy roundtable, featuring Brand Assembly, showroom 10eleven and wholesale e-commerce platform NuORDER, as well as legal and HR discussions.
Participants will be taught how to execute and measure their marketing strategies, and receive coaching in leadership. They’ll also have cross-functional internal advisory sessions to develop action plans and plot next steps.
Saks is treating the new brands like part of the family with marketing opportunities that include added exposure on Saks.com and digital communications, multi-vendor New York flagship window and visual moments, and dedicated clienteling and training, including product knowledge and training for style advisors, who can confidently recommend the labels.
Asked whether customers in some of Saks’ smaller markets will appreciate the accelerator brands, Irving said, “Customers in all of our markets are very interested in new fashion, especially brands that offer a fresh point-of-view. What’s unique about our accelerator program is that we’re not only sharing resources to help these businesses scale, but we are also giving them the opportunity to grow through our investment in purchases. The designers are all available on saks.com, as well as a few select stores for now.
“We definitely selected the brands with the Saks customer in mind,” Irving added. “These brands offer just what our customers are looking for, luxury designer fashion that’s unique and inspiring, but at the same time relatable and approachable.”