Saks’ Fashion Faux Pas?

Saks Fifth Avenue received much criticism last November when it jumped the gun with its huge pre-holiday sale and slashed pries by 70%. After seeing this month’s ad campaign, we wonder if there’s a big disconnect between what’s going on in the retail world and Saks’ marketing strategy, which seems very short-sighted and in poor taste (or totally brilliant).

The campaign, which features Communist propaganda-inspired ads designed by Shepard Fairey, revolves around a mantra of conspicuous consumption that Saks has actually been using for a few years now. “WANT IT!”, scream the ads un-apologetically in bold, lipstick red font – and yet there’s not much to want. Saks, like its luxury retail counterparts Neiman Marcus and Barneys, has cut the number of featured designers leaving anemic looking racks.

More importantly, last month, the Wall Street Journal ran a great little interview with Anna Wintour in which she articulated what we’ve all been seeing not only in terms of fashion, but consumer behavior in general; the emphasis has shifted away from materialism – anything “too Dubai,” as Wintour puts it – towards simplicity and quality. On top of that, those who are still purchasing luxury goods don’t necessarily want to make a big show of it. Don’t get us wrong – the campaign is great and we LOVE Shepard Fairey, but it’s just the wrong time and place.  So what exactly is Saks thinking – is this a desperate ploy amidst the rumors of bankruptcy, an ill-timed move or are we just being too sensitive? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

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