- A renovation of Saks Fifth Avenue's flagship store is providing the retailer with a chance to experiment with new offerings.
- Until October, the store will feature The Wellery, an entire section dedicated to wellness classes and services, including salt therapy rooms, guided meditation and golf simulators.
Shoppers won't find ready-to-wear designer duds on the second floor of Saks Fifth Avenue's flagship story. Instead, they'll stumble on Breathe Salt Rooms, Sundays nail studio, and a PXG golf simulator.
The high-end department store is undergoing a hefty renovation to give the Fifth Avenue store a facelift. Since some departments were being moved to different floors during the work, the second floor was going to be vacant for some time. The area will eventually be connected to the first floor by a glass elevator and be home to the beauty department and some jewelry.
But until then, Saks President Marc Metrick asked associates to get creative with the space. Thus, The Wellery was born.
"We're learning a lot," he said. "We are innovating. We are seeing what's portable, what we can take to our other stores, what we can continue with here, ... and we are doing what we want to do, which is, we are creating a connection with our consumer in a different way than retailers have ever had to do before."
Metrick said Saks is using The Wellery to learn about the new luxury: wellness.
Consumers are growing increasingly interested in eating healthy, exercising, and spending on experiences over things. It's causing traditional brick-and-mortar retailers to think differently about how they attract shoppers into stores with experiences that can't be ordered online.
It also comes at time that department stores that own valuable store locations are under pressure to better monetize their real estate holdings for shareholders. That includes Saks' parent company, Hudson's Bay Company, which has been asked to do just that by hedge fund Land & Buildings, which owns a 5 percent stake in Hudson's.
The suggestions Saks has received have ranged from closing stores to selling and converting the top floors of the Saks Fifth Avenue flagship into luxury apartments.
Ideas like The Wellery could offer yet another option.
Covering more than 16,000 square feet, The Wellery will be open until the end of October. There are fitness classes and equipment for sale, along with beauty treatments to experience and products to buy.
The Saks Studio offers rotating, pop-up classes put on by outside fitness experts from Bari Studio, Uma Gaia and others.
ConBody is exactly what it sounds like: a prison-like workout using only your body weight, taught by formerly incarcerated individuals, in an area offset by a chain-like fence. Reservations are made online for the $30 class. And it's the one experience Metrick calls out when asked which offering shouldn't be missed.
"If you have the guts, or have a gut, take the ConBody," he said.
While thin brows are out, grooming them is certainly in. The Wellery's Blink Brow Bar offers threading and tinting, and while you're there, consider lash extensions and perming, too.
Sundays nail studio offers nontoxic services, including a vegan manicure, massages and guided meditation.
Skinney MedSpa takes treatments a step beyond manicures with CoolSculpting fat reduction, Venus Freeze cellulite treatment, photo facials and more.
Perhaps the most interesting wellness treatment are the Breathe Salt Rooms. Shoppers looking to detoxify book 10 minutes for $25, and sit in a booth with Himalayan salts at their feet, with a 99.9 percent sodium chloride mist pumped in, with calming music and changing lights for the duration. Breathe says salt is naturally anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral and more. It says the treatments can aid in clearing up allergies, bronchitis and colds, plus skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema, and improve sleep by helping with snoring and sleep apnea.
Showrooms allow shoppers to test equipment to some degree, but stop short of offering full classes or instruction.
Peloton has two bikes with livestreams to the New York studio and Drive 495 is PXG's golf simulator experience to help measure angle, speed, spin rate and more to best fit you for new golf clubs.
It's not devoid of clothing, though what is available for sale is geared toward fitness and wellness.
Greyson Clothiers, which sells high-end men's golf and activewear, is also there, with a putting green where customers can practice sinking the perfect putt before they commit to spending $120 on pair of golf shorts.
The Wellery is certainly attention-grabbing, but CNBC observed the traffic on the second floor was considerably more sparse than the first floor, and less populated than other higher floors.
While he wouldn't disclose financial details or quantify the foot traffic of The Wellery, Metrick said he thinks it's a valuable experiment giving consumers new health, wellness and fitness-related experiences.
"We have affirmed what we learned from our research," Metrick said. "It's all about feeling better. And the consumer is interested in it. And like a lot of fashion and a lot of trend, it's going to take more time to take hold, but we have a lot of momentum, so we continue to learn what's important."
Saks hasn't announced plans to permanently add any of The Wellery's vendors to its flagship or other stores when the space closes. So if you need a salt detoxification session, or your golf swing assessed, you better get there soon.