The massive credit card breach that's ensnared Target and Neiman Marcus—and reportedly may have hit at least three other retailers—not only affected the stores that were directly impacted, but the retail industry as a whole, Saks President Marigay McKee said Monday.
"If I were the president, I would say this is an Air Force One emergency," McKee said at the annual Financo CEO Forum in New York.
(Read more: The dysfunctional state of America's credit cards)
"Every single retailer in the country, I'm sure, is putting as much emphasis and as much importance on this as they can," she said.
McKee, who recently became president of Saks after its acquisition by Hudson's Bay, said that she is confident that retailers are "putting the dollars where they need to" in an effort to keep the consumer safe.
(Read more: Target CEO 'still shaken' by the breach)
After the Target breach, which may have compromised the information of as many as 110 million shoppers, many have questioned what retailers and banks are doing to protect consumers when they make transactions, with many calling attention to outdated credit cards and payment processing systems.
The industry is already off to a tough 2014, with a growing list of retailers from Lululemon to American Eagle cutting quarterly or annual earnings forecasts in the wake of a lackluster holiday season.
The industry's trade group, the National Retail Federation, reported Tuesday that holiday sales rose 3.8 percent to $601.8 billion in November and December, just shy of the group's forecast for a 3.9 percent increase.
While McKee said fraud is something that has always concerned her team, the recent headlines have "been a rude awakening" that brought security to the top of the industry's priority list.
(Read more: Target breach fallout may hit loyalty programs)
Echoing this sentiment was Brian Girouard, an executive with global IT consultancy Capgemini, who said at the NRF convention in New York that the data breach hurt the overall industry, as it shook consumers' trust in retailers.
It's an issue that will become even more pertinent moving forward, he said, as shoppers begin to share more information with stores to receive deals catered to their needs or location.
(Read more: How Target shoppers can protect their info)
"As more and more data flows between consumers and businesses, they have to protect that data more and more," Girouard said.
—By CNBC's Krystina Gustafson. Follow her on Twitter