When I was reporting on Saks Fifth Avenue-owner Richard Baker’s ambitions to buy Neiman Marcus Group over the summer, something kept creeping up. Several brands, and even a few service providers, remarked to me that they were owed quite a bit of money from Baker’s parentco, Hudson’s Bay Company, which owns both Saks Fifth Avenue and Saks, its e-commerce spinoff that launched in 2021 at the height of the luxury boom. Some aggrieved vendors told me that they even refused to ship their fall merchandise to the two entities.
I’m not sure anyone is really killing it right now at multi-brand retail, but I was amazed by the consistency with which Saks came up in these conversations. The is-Saks-in-trouble palace intrigue continued on throughout fashion month, with stories emerging of some brands being owed millions of dollars, other brands pulling out of their agreements, and still others refusing to ship to the store.
Was trouble really afoot? Were people merely player-hating on Baker, who has raised at least $2 billion from two Middle Eastern sovereign wealth funds to vacuum up Neiman? Was some Vulcan chess accrual accounting at work? Were people needlessly starting trouble? Or is this just life in retail, where operators must be ruthless cost-cutters, even if that means some vendors don’t get paid on time?