Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

When Outlet Chain Found Success, It Decided to Found Another Outlet

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

When Outlet Chain Found Success, It Decided to Found Another Outlet

Article excerpt

THE LAST TIME I headed for the Saks outlet at Franklin Mills, I ended up instead in what turned out to be - and this is not a typo - the Saks outlet outlet. OK, its formal name is The Clearinghouse, but "the Saks Outlet Outlet" is what people who work at the mall call it.

Franklin Mills Mall, in case you don't know, is the No. 1 tourist magnet in the state of Pennsylvania - way, way ahead of attractions like Independence Hall, Benjamin Franklin's grave and the world's first penitentiary, which are also here in Philadelphia. The draw is bargains: a mile-long gathering of value-oriented retailers, including a Filene's Basement, a Syms, a Marshalls, an Ann Taylor Outlet, a Neiman Marcus outlet, a Geoffrey Beene outlet, a Levis outlet and a Donna Karan outlet.

In 1991, Saks Fifth Avenue opened an outlet here called The Clearinghouse to get rid of merchandise that didn't sell even at 50 percent to 75 percent markdowns at Saks' end-of-season sales. It did so well that parent company Saks Holdings opened more, and eventually decided to turn them into a free-standing business called Off Fifth. By the end of last year there were 35 Off Fifth outlets, with 10 to 15 more planned for this year. Maybe it should've been obvious that the 50 Saks Fifth Avenue stores wouldn't have enough leftovers to stock 45 or 50 outlets. Even so, I was shocked to read in Women's Wear Daily in January that only 20 percent of the merchandise at Off Fifth stores now comes from real Saks Fifth Avenues. Twenty percent! Here I'd been thinking the 9 million garments I've tried on at the Franklin Mills Off Fifth over the past few years had all come straight from Saks, where I also have a charge, but can rarely afford to shop, and now it turns out that 80 percent of them had never seen the inside of a real Saks Fifth Avenue? I felt betrayed. Joseph Moore, senior vice president and general manager of Off Fifth, assured me that even though most of his stock no longer came from real Saks stores, it comes from the same designers and the same brand-name manufacturers. In other words, it could've been sold at Saks. Sure, and I could've been a famous violinist, except for never learning to play the violin. …

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