Pass it On: Saks President Marc Metrick on competition

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NEW YORK | Saks Fifth Avenue President Marc Metrick has been reinventing the luxury chain’s business since he took on the top role in April 2015.

In this Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019, photo Saks Fifth Avenue President Marc Metrick poses for a photograph inside the company’s flagship Fifth Avenue store, in New York. A company insider, the 45-year-old Metrick aims to reinvent the department store experience to bring theater to luxury shopping at a time when shoppers can buy their designer handbags online. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

At a time when shoppers can get luxury goods online, Metrick wants to bring theater to the stores and also make online shopping on its website. As part of the strategy, Saks is in the last phase of what Metrick calls a $250 million redevelopment of the storied Saks Fifth Avenue flagship in Manhattan just as luxury rivals Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom expand into the city. He’s added a fancy Parisian restaurant import, and is dedicating the main floor to luxury purses staffed with handbag style advisers in addition to the sales associates. The beauty floor has been overhauled and relocated to the second floor. And its other Saks stores are also getting upgrades.

But, while the move to overhaul its flagship is being driven by rivals Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom expanding into Manhattan this year, Metrick says you can’t pay too much attention on rivals, but instead executives should focus on the customer.

Metrick shared some of his insights and experiences as Saks Fifth Avenue’s president with The Associated Press. Questions and answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Q. What does your day-to-day work look like?

A. No day is ever the same but you can typically find me meeting with and supporting my team, along with connecting with our supplier partners and engaging with front-line associates, as well as customers during frequent stores visits.

Q. How do you recruit the right people?

A. Aside from the table stakes of technical skills, it is about an individual’s willingness to be uncomfortable with what we have to do and how we are going to do it. Our industry is in a time of great change and, while I believe we still need subject matter expertise, the people I am looking for understand that we need to be disruptive. The more uncomfortable we are, the more confidence I have that we are changing for the better.

Q. What have you learned about problem-solving over the years?

A. There is not a perfect solution for every problem. If you are moving fast enough, you are probably solving multiple problems each day. The goal is to find the win-win and move on. Letting the perfect solution get in the way of finding a great solution can stifle momentum.

Q. How much do you pay attention to competitors?

A. You always have to be aware of what your competition is doing, but too much focus on them and not enough on the customer will open the door, not just for your competitors, but also for new entrants. The key is to keep your eye on the customer and anticipate what they will want.

Q. What do you do for work-life balance?

A. In addition to spending time with my family, I am an avid runner and have completed two New York City marathons.