News & Scoops

2009 May 14

Now Breaking...

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(NEW YORK) The concept of "breaking"--meaning the widespread discounting of merchandise on a seasonal timetable--is more critical than ever to the success of department-store retailers, which often compete to score spending dollars by marking down before its competitors. Last November, Saks Fifth Avenue came under fire for being the first to offer Fall 2009 merchandise at 75% off well in advance of the holidays--a move that forced its competitors like Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom to follow suit. Saks' decision was based on the economic reality that customers required very real incentives to spend. “Some actions were taken,” Saks' chief executive Stephen Sadove told the New York Times in February, “that you’ll probably never see again.”

But a trip to Saks' Fifth Avenue flagship this morning already revealed vast quantities of discounted Spring 2009, including selected items from European flagship brands like Missoni as well as young American designers such as Chris Benz. Barneys New York featured a one-day sale last Monday, offering 40% off many items. The sales will commence in earnest on Thursday, May 19, when the retailer will begin offering 40% off on the majority of its spring collections. Sales associates at the Madison Avenue flagship are already reaching out to their clients and offering merchandise on pre-sale.

According to, last year's on-sale dates began slightly later in the season--and with smaller discounts. Saks marked down merchandise by 30% on May 26, and Bergdorf followed suit by May 29. So will the Spring collections be discounted steeply by the first legitimate weeks of summer? Probably so--but remember, the orders are much smaller, resulting in very limited quantities of the most coveted merchandise. Now that's some incentive to shop...

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