A $250 million revamp of Saks’ Manhattan flagship is the tip of the spear in the hypercompetitive department store wars.
The gateway drug: Handbags—not perfume—are bringing customers into luxury retail.

ASCENDING A SLEEK NEW MULTICOLORED escalator, designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, Saks Fifth Avenue president Marc Metrick is a man vibrating with excitement ahead of the store’s grand unveiling. The escalator’s bright red and blue hues and a large LED ceiling, which creates the illusion of a blue sky, pop in sharp contrast with the gray curtains used to cordon off a dusty construction area. Change is afoot on the ground floor of one of Manhattan’s most iconic department stores.

This sense of theater epitomizes what Metrick—who has been president of the HBC-owned Saks since 2015—is convinced the company has to offer today’s shoppers, particularly at its 650,000-square-foot New York City flagship.

The dazzling new escalator connects the street level—for

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