Busy New Yorkers have mastered the art of multitasking, and Saks Fifth Avenue's flagship store has brought this concept to special events with its Corporate Outreach Program. On any day or night of the week, professionals can gather at the legendary department store, in the heart of Manhattan, to mix and mingle with coworkers — and, if they are lucky, find their dream shoe. Continental Airlines, Deloitte and Touche, and JPMorgan Chase have held corporate events here; the largest group that Saks has hosted was more than 300 people, management says.
Saks' Corporate Outreach Program began in January 2007, yet management has given it a low profile until recently. While department stores are not typical venues for corporate events, Saks' 10 floors of retail space and three restaurants give the store ample room to host events. “The event opportunities are really quite endless when compared to other spaces within the area,” vice president of marketing, client development and foodservices Kathleen Ruiz says. “Rather than the conventional event space, we find that the unconventional usage of Saks Fifth Avenue as not only a luxury retailer but also as a desirable location for a customer to entertain proves advantageous.”
TAILORING EVENTS AND CLOTHING
Saks Fifth Avenue has been known for its impeccable style and customer service since it opened its doors in 1924, a style that's also apparent in its cocktail parties and corporate get-togethers. Saks organizes various types of corporate events, from fashion and private designer trunk shows to exclusive shopping parties, each tailored to meet a group's specific desires. “We pay close attention to the needs of the client in our initial event planning meeting, and we then tailor a proposal that we feel represents Saks as well the client and their guests,” Ruiz says. Events can be held during store hours, but “we also offer the option for customers to enjoy the store like a VIP before or after hours, opening to them an untapped retail experience,” Ruiz explains. Personal shoppers are on hand at events to help guests locate and purchase items and will “venture into all corners of Saks to bring the guests what they want,” Ruiz says. Event length is not an issue, as Saks will provide staff and security 24 hours, seven days a week.
Planners have a lot of creative control when styling their program at Saks. “At one event, we had a top fashion editor of a New York magazine talk to a group about upcoming trends and give one-on-one advice,” Ruiz says. Events can also be held in various vendors' boutiques and even on the open showroom floors. Recently, one group staged its event at the Armani boutique, which “had a true gentleman's aura — perfect for the male guests who attended,” Ruiz says. The guest list was a combination of attorneys from a prestigious law firm and members of an exclusive New York social club, and regional Armani experts were on hand for consultation on the latest spring trends. The event was topped off with a Scotch-tasting.
To the delight of the women lawyers of another global law firm, Saks hosted a corporate event in the St. John boutique, where consultants offered individualized fashion advice along with “a formal fashion presentation, adding glamour and exclusivity in keeping with the Saks Fifth Avenue experience,” Ruiz says.
EAT, DRINK, SHOP AND BE MERRY
Event guests have several dining options from which to choose. Clients can visit 2Eat@Saks, an intimate 1,500 square-foot restaurant nestled amidst European designer collections, or at Snaks, which combines a sleek, minimalist aesthetic with modern artwork. Snaks features a long bar, which makes it suitable for mingling. Event menu items range from traditional favorites such as caviar and smoked salmon to more adventurous options such as foie gras and open-faced sandwiches served on Poilane bread, which is shipped in daily from the famed Parisian bakery. Saks has an in-house catering director and an executive chef who are “always willing to modify dishes and drinks to meet clients' needs,” Ruiz says. They will also customize alcoholic beverages for groups, offering them the exclusivity of a signature cocktail. The “stiletto sling,” a blend of Alize Red Passion, Absolut Raspberry and cranberry juice, is concocted for groups wanting a shoe-themed event.
Staff members of the Corporate Outreach Program are “constantly striving to develop an atmosphere where Saks' corporate clients can develop relationships not only with our store but with each other via the shopping experience,” Ruiz says.
Saks Fifth Avenue 12 E. 49 St., 15th Floor, New York, NY 10017; 212/940-2808; www.saksfifthavenue.com