Saks Fifth Avenue Leaving Pittsburgh

Another favorite Downtown store of mine is leaving Pittsburgh.

While no official closing date for Saks Fifth Avenue, which has been part of the city for almost 60 years, has been announced, lease for the upscale retailer is set to expire in September 2012. With the upcoming loss of Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s will be the only remaining major department store located in Downtown Pittsburgh, a contrast to four department stores less than ten years ago.

In addition to declining sales and negotiations for over $10 million in improvements falling through, according to spokeswoman Julia Bentley, several key designers also no longer provide merchandise for Saks’ Smithfield Street location.

I always loved browsing through Saks and shopped there on occasion (I still have a lovely Ferragamo handbag I got a few years ago during one of my rare splurges, along with a Oleg Cassini jacket). The first Christmas after I’d moved to Pittsburgh, I even worked there as part of the holiday retail help.

Contrary to popular belief, not all cashmere is the same; there’s a difference between high-quality cashmere products from Saks (and other posh retailers) and lower-end stores such as Kmart and Target. It doesn’t take a true fashionista to just feel the quality from each place to tell the difference right away, but years of retail working (and shopping) experience always helps in telling better-made apparel from knock offs.

I admired Saks’ store windows as well. Everything was so well put together with what appeared to be so little effort, and the same applied with displays inside the store. However, designing such attractive windows and displays can be a bit more difficult than just throwing a few garments on mannequins.

It saddens me that with all the talk of “revitalizing” Downtown, that within less than a decade, two major department stores left the area, and now a third is on its way out. While it’s good to have many choices in the suburbs, aside from Macy’s, what will Downtown offer aside from smaller retailers Jos. A. Bank and Brooks Brothers as far as higher-end stores are concerned? More importantly, what will become of the building where Saks is now housed?

Will those who rent those planned Downtown apartments have worthwhile shopping choices in the future? I suppose we’ll have to wait and see what develops.

It’s still a sad day in the retail world, especially since it means more jobs lost. That’s the biggest blow of all.

More about Saks’ closing can be read on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette web site.

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