Saks Fifth Avenue moves into the Vinoy


St. Petersburg residents and visitors seeking a luxury personal shopping and styling service will soon have a new local resource – fittingly, on 5th Avenue – along the downtown waterfront.

Saks Fifth Avenue officials recently announced that St. Petersburg will house a standalone Fifth Avenue Club by the end of the summer. The upscale retailer piloted the concept in private hotel and resort suites last year.

Company leadership is now building on the successful launch. The Vinoy Resort & Golf Club is one of three nationwide hotels awaiting a Fifth Avenue Club, following recent openings at the Commodore Perry Estate in Austin and Hotel Bardo in Savannah.

Vanessa Williams, general manager of the Vinoy, said leadership has worked to solidify its status as the “only luxury resort on the bay in St. Pete” since completing an expansive renovation project. She is no stranger to restoring opulent hotels and helped open the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills resort before leaving to oversee the “Pink Lady’s” makeover.

“From our perspective, to have Saks Fifth Avenue – as prestigious as it is – within the Vinoy and attracting the caliber of clients they have, and also having it available for our members, our guests and the whole community, I just think it’s a wonderful addition to what we’ve already done at the Vinoy,” Williams told the Catalyst.

“But also, a wonderful addition to St. Petersburg.”

The Vinoy Resort & Golf Club at 501 5th Ave. N.

Sunshine City residents must currently drive to Sarasota or Orlando to visit Saks Fifth Avenue, which opened its first store in 1867. The then-burgeoning luxury retailer expanded into Manhattan in 1902. Saks opened its flagship location on 5th Avenue in New York in 1924, a year before the Vinoy welcomed its first guests. Williams confirmed that it would open its doors to Fifth Avenue Club members Aug. 5.

The company announcement states that Saks utilized customer feedback to identify “high potential” new markets for its nascent Fifth Avenue Club. The service has propelled client engagement, with women’s ready-to-wear apparel the most requested clothing category.

“I know they looked at properties in Tampa,” Williams said. “The Vinoy was suggested to them, and they came over in person, walked around the hotel and made the decision that this is where they wanted to be.”

Personal shopping and styling appointments through the Fifth Avenue Club were previously only available inside Fifth Avenue stores. The decision to offer standalone suites coincided with soaring property values and construction costs, and customers increasingly eschewing big-box retailers.

The permanent suites offer a decidedly more intimate experience. Saks officials recruit skilled personal stylists from local communities to provide clients with expert services according to their needs and preferences.

Williams said Saks will permanently occupy a suite on the Vinoy’s mezzanine level. “So, really easy access for their customers and our local community,” she added.

Company officials reconfigure the room to serve its new purpose. Customers connect with a stylist to discuss their desired look, wardrobe needs and favorite clothing designers.

Saks notes that the stylist then uses the “full breadth of the Sak’s Fifth Avenue luxury ecosystem” to curate merchandise. That includes accessories, shoes and fine jewelry.

“If you’re an existing client, Saks already has all the details,” Williams said. “But if you are new … you can come in for a personal consultation in the privacy of a suite.”

The Ritz-Carlton and St. Regis Hotels & Resorts will host nearly half the 20 club suites. Williams believes the local partnership “made complete sense – both from our perspective and theirs.”

She said there is no additional cost for guests to use the service. The suite is not available for overnight stays.

A Fifth Avenue Club suite opened at the Commodore Perry Estate in Austin last week.

Williams noted that clients can also explore the Vinoy and its facilities. She expects the club to bolster brand awareness for the resort and local stylists.

“I think it speaks to St. Pete elevating,” Williams said. “I think we have a new local community that’s moving in, as well. And there is a need for luxury and a need for it to be accessible.”

She said Saks has no plans for a standalone store in the area. Williams believes establishing the club suites in affluent hotels will remain a focus, as “people really enjoy that aspect of shopping in a non-store environment.

“We’re extremely excited that this partnership happened. And really look forward to continuously growing that relationship and making it more accessible for the Tampa Bay region, Pinellas County and, in particular, our community in St. Petersburg.”

via St. Pete Catalyst

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Ashley Morales

Ashley Morales