Tuesday, 15 Jun 2021

Saks Unveils Roadmap to Advance Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Saks Fifth Avenue has released its roadmap outlining goals to advance its diversity, equity and inclusion efforts with measurable commitments to be achieved by 2023.

“Over the last year, the intensifying conversation around equality and social justice has made it clear there is more work to be done to improve representation, including within the fashion industry. We’ve taken the time to listen and learn, so that our plans can have a meaningful and lasting impact for our customers, employees, partners and communities. Sharing this roadmap is a pivotal milestone in our efforts and we remain committed to making Saks Fifth Avenue an inclusive  experience for everyone,” said Marc Metrick, chief executive officer of Saks.

Among the objectives:

• Hiring, advancing and promoting Black, Indigenous and people of color talent into 40 percent of roles at the manager level and above by ensuring its practices mitigate bias and strive for inclusivity in the hiring process.

• Directing 60 percent of grants annually from the Saks Fifth Avenue Foundation to support underserved communities and mobilizing employees to donate time within their local communities by instituting a corporate volunteer program, Saks Serves.

• Increasing total sales of Black-owned, Black-designed or Black-led brands by about $100 million by expanding its merchandise assortment and supporting emerging brands, including the establishment of the Saks Emerging Designer Program.

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Other initiatives include increasing diversity in the retailer’s marketing and committing to featuring models who represent diversity of ethnicity, age and/or size, comprising 50 percent of its annual editorial casting. It has also committed to educational opportunities available to employees, including fostering empathy and understanding.

Larry Bruce, president of SFA, the entity that owns Saks Fifth Avenue’s store fleet, added: “We always strive to deliver a service-led, in-store experience where everyone is treated with dignity and respect. With our roadmap, we have actionable goals to drive progress across Saks Fifth Avenue, helping ensure that each person — whether visiting, working or merely passing through one of our locations — knows that they are welcome and belong.”

Saks has established the Saks Emerging Designer Accelerator Program to help develop high-potential brands. With Saks’ commitment to increasing representation in its assortment, the program, presented by Mastercard, will emphasize Black, Indigenous or people of color talent, ensuring that each year half of the participants will be owned by those groups.

Tracy Margolies, chief merchandising officer at Saks, said, “Our goal is to provide the opportunity for these talented creators to thrive over the long term at Saks Fifth Avenue and across the greater fashion industry. The development of this program furthers our commitment to not only increasing representation in our assortment, but also using our platform and industry resources to help emerging brands succeed. At the same time, it directly supports our mission to help our customers express their identifies through relevant and inspiring style.”

This year, eight brands have been selected to participate in the inaugural year-long program, including Ashya, BruceGlen, Busayo, Kimberly Goldson, LaQuan Smith, Reese Cooper, Alejandra Alonso Rojas and A.W.A.K.E. Mode. The program will offer an onboarding boot camp, mentorship and entrepreneurial workshops to gain skills and insights needed to scale their businesses at Saks and elsewhere. In addition, each brand will be eligible to receive a $10,000 grant to support their business operations and growth, as well as dedicated marketing support from Saks. Participants were sourced from all categories, identified by Saks leadership as having significant growth potential.

As part of its sponsorship of the Saks Emerging Designer Accelerator Program, Mastercard will offer participating brands access to its new Digital Doors program, including resources and tools aimed to help small businesses grow and enhance their online presence.

The program, which launched in April, continues through February 2022, with designer question-and-answer sessions, entrepreneurial workshops, and quarterly and seasonal check-ins. Graduation is March 2022. Among those participating in designer Q&As are Thom Browne, Jonathan Simkhai, Jason Wu and Jessie Randall.

Workshops will address such issues as financial strategy and building one’s brand foundation to supply chain — product development and production — sales strategy, legal and human resources, creating a marketing plan and enhancing one’s digital marketing. Yearlong resource support includes subsidized Skypad and NuOrder service and such marketing opportunities as added exposure on saks.com and digital communications, multivendor New York flagship window and visual moments, and dedicated clienteling and training, including product knowledge and training for style advisers.

There will be a window installation highlighting the designers at the New York flagship in September.

Further, as part of its commitment to increase sales among Black-owned, designed and led brands, Saks has added 38 brands to its assortment, including Busayo, Kimberly Goldson, LaQuan Smith, Stella Jean, A-Cold-Wall and Ree Projects, among others.

Margolies added, “We’re excited to be able to introduce these new brands to our customers as we work to drive greater representation within our merchandise assortment. As a leading luxury fashion destination, we work every day to ensure we offer our customers an experience for exploration and discovery of new fashion.”

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