08th Nov 2013

Trading Harrods for Saks..

In July the $2.4 billion acquisition of up-market US retailer Saks Inc by Canadian retailer Hudson Bay Co was announced; the deal is expected to close by years end. The change in ownership will be followed by a change in leadership as Brit Marigay McKee - chief merchant at luxury London retailer Harrods – is due to take on the much sought-after role of president of Saks Fifth Avenue. McKee will replace Ronald Frasch, who after 15 years, will leave when the buyout goes through.

McKee is well acquainted with the world of luxury retail. While she started her fashion career as a buyer for Fenwick, in 1999 she joined London landmark Harrods as a beauty buyer, where, over the course of 14 years she worked her way up to the position of chief merchant.

During her time at Harrods McKee has worked in various departments including marketing, branding and merchandising, and she is credited with broadening the retailer’s reputation. Under her guidance, Harrods cemented its fashion credentials and became recognised as a fashion institution in its own right.

Richard Baker, CEO of Hudson Bay recently praised McKee “as an effective world-class leader in the international luxury retail space [who] is well-aligned with our vision for the Saks Fifth Avenue brand. She has a proven track record of success at the highest level of luxury and I'm very excited for her to head up our Saks business at HBC."

The recession hit Saks hard. The luxury goods market slowed, and with consumer spending curbed the retailer’s profits dropped, and it has struggled to recover. In June, July and August losses at the retailer rose to $19.6 million.

Baker will be relying on McKee’s help turn Saks’ fortunes around. In addition to the leadership shake-up he also has a major organisational revamp in the pipeline. There will be no expense spared with a planned $200 million to be spent on renovating the flagship Saks Fifth Avenue store alone. This in itself seems like a testament to Baker’s faith in McKee. Let’s hope she steps up to the plate and proves herself to be the leader Saks needs her to be.

Hilda Goold



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