Saks Turns to Harrods For New Leadership

Sep 17, 2013

Harrods, it could be argued, is the industry’s most iconic department store, attracting visitors from all over the globe. Will the chief merchant who helped advance Harrods’ status as an "international destination for luxury" shoppers be able to do the same across the pond here in the U.S.?

Yesterday, it was announced that Marigay McKee, Harrods’ chief merchant, would become president of Saks once Hudson’s Bay Co. completed the deal to acquire the chain.

Jennifer de Winter, current EVP and director of stores at Saks, will become the chief merchandising officer at Saks Fifth Avenue reporting to Ms. McKee.

Ms. Mckee told Women’s Wear Daily that at Harrods she focused on leaving customers and her teams "breathless."

While looking to do the same at Saks, she acknowledged her role would be different. "It’s working to position those brands in the right places, in the right environment. It’s making sure the right people are in the right remits, but this is an opportunity to [undertake] a transformational evolution of an already well-established, iconic American brand," she told WWD.

Harrods endorsed Ms. McKee’s career step. A company statement published on The Telegraph website said she was "instrumental in developing Harrods’ exceptional department and brand portfolio" and had left "behind a very strong team and an inspirational legacy."

Hudson’s Bay is committed to making Ms. McKee a success including spending $200 million to renovate the Saks’ flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York.

What will it take for Marigay McKee to be successful at Saks? What changes would you expect her to make? Will the move from London to New York be a problem?

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7 Comments on "Saks Turns to Harrods For New Leadership"

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Paula Rosenblum
8 years 9 months ago

Wow! I think this is a great move. Harrods is known for its specialness. I think Saks has lost a few steps over the past few years. I’m expecting she’ll make the stores sexier, the marketing more targeted, and some big splashes by doing the retail equivalent of “performance art.”

Ron Margulis
8 years 9 months ago

What will it take for the new CEO to be successful? In a word, differentiation. Within blocks of the Saks on Fifth Ave in NYC and within miles of the other stores, there are several if not dozens of department stores and boutiques competing for the shopper’s attention and pocketbook. Saks has become too gray – it played catch-up to Nordstrom over the last decade plus and the merchandising shows it. I would expect McKee to improve customer service, and more importantly, expand product selection. And, no, the move from London to New York will not be a problem.

Lee Kent
8 years 9 months ago

I would really like to see this change make a huge difference. Jury’s out for me.

I loved Paula’s use of the word “specialness”! That is what it used to feel like when you just walked into Saks. Nowadays it’s just like any other store.

While I think Ms. McKee can create a special environment for Saks, I also know that there are big differences in fashion and personality between us and across the pond. Like I said before, the jury is out for me.

Ed Rosenbaum
8 years 9 months ago

Paula wrapped her arms around this. I agree with her. Saks has to become special again. I hope it will happen and soon.

Craig Sundstrom
8 years 9 months ago

Okay, I agree, Paula won the award for speed and succinctness. Saks needs to differentiate itself. I’m less willing though to share the “great move” sentiment; I’m not saying it isn’t – I know nothing about Ms. McKee beyond what I read here – but my concern is that her background at a promotion-heavy, single-location retailer might tempt her to (simply) try the same thing at Saks, which would be great for 5th Ave, but less so for the many other locations. We don’t need them to follow Macy’s in making America a suburb of NYC.

Kate Blake
Kate Blake
8 years 9 months ago

Make Saks cool, not the place your grandmother used to shop.

Give the kind of customer service you can’t get at Macy’s anymore.

Don’t judge your customers by what they wear. A $500 sale would have been lost because the nurse in scrubs stopped by for some retail therapy. Most of the “ladies who lunch” are in a nursing home now, so you have to look to the working woman for your customer.

William Passodelis
8 years 8 months ago

She is a MERCHANT which is a GREAT thing. The move from London to NYC is of no concern. She does need to make Saks feel “special” again – much more so than recent years – and service is an important part of that. I am excited and await her potential benefits and changes.


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