Saks Fifth Avenue is mapping out what its stores will look like post-coronavirus — and the plan includes sales associates who will wear fashionable masks while passing out little bottles of hand sanitizer.
Executives at the swanky retailer — owned by Canada-based Hudson’s Bay Company — have been drawing up a “re-entry plan” as the number of new COVID-19 cases appears to be leveling off in some states, The Post has learned.
The strategy centers on making customers feel safe, using everything from dispensable cosmetics samples and contactless credit-card readers to virtual shopping services that connect sales associates with fashion-obsessed clients who are hunkered down at home.
As for the face masks, they will likely be black, Saks President Marc Metrick told The Post.
“We don’t want anything medical or scary looking,” Metrick said of the masks. “Masks could become the new iPhone cases. There is a chance it could become another new accessory.”
Like thousands of other businesses around the country, Saks closed its doors on March 18 as the deadly coronavirus swept the nation. Now the chain is aiming to reopen at least some of its 41 stores, including its flagship on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, by June 1.
That means developing protocols to reassure customers that its employees are healthy.
Saks plans to take their temperatures with thermometers daily and potentially communicate those results to shoppers, Metrick said.
Sales associates and housekeeping staff alike will sanitize the store conspicuously in front of customers, not just during off hours.
That includes wiping down doorknobs and seating surfaces before customers enter a dressing room.
“We can’t pretend that everything is normal,” Metrick said. “I don’t think people will be standing six feet from each other 18 months from now, but there will be an interim period when they want a sense of security about how we are taking steps to protect them.”
Saks declined to address how these measures, as well as post-COVID-19 business climate, might affect its stores financially.
Macy’s, whose shares have tanked 80 percent this year, declined to specifically discuss its own plans to reopen after shuttering its 800 stores nationwide March 17, other than to say it won’t reopen all of them at the same time.
“We know that things will look different, that there will likely be enhanced public health requirements, as well as changed expectations from our customers,” Macy’s spokeswoman Blair Rosenberg said.
At the Saks Fifth Avenue flagship in Manhattan, some of the changes will be at odds with the store’s glitzy $250 million renovation completed last year, which had been aimed at tempting customers to linger longer.
Using Zoom and other video-conferencing apps, personal stylists will be available to walk clients through Gucci, Dior or Chanel shops while removing items from the rack for closer inspection. Saks also aims to roll out a new “valet” return system to allow customers to text a store associate to meet them at the entrance or even outside the store to handle the transaction.
“In the next normal, we can avoid you coming in the store altogether,” Metrick said. “I think some customers would enjoy that.”
Saks stores will reduce hours by 20 percent on average. Members of the company’s loyalty program, known as Saks Plus, will be able to book an appointment to shop an hour before or after the store officially closes.
There are kinks to be worked out. Saks is still investigating, for example, how to handle clothing that customers have tried on, including possibly using experts who can advise on how or if clothing needs to be cleaned.
In the beauty department, reusable samples will be eliminated, and “we’ll have to rethink how we use brushes and other tools that apply makeup,” Metrick said.
“Artists would need to be trained on new sanitization standards,” said retail consultant Gabriella Santaniello, president of A Line Partners. “And my guess is that a lot of beauty retailers will stock up on single-use samples” and turn to virtual makeup tools, she said.