Retail

Saks President Says Firm Doesn’t Need In-Store AI

Luxury retailer Saks Fifth Avenue is taking a stand against the ongoing push for artificial intelligence (AI) in the brick and mortar shopping experience. In a recent interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” Saks’ president Marc Metrick explained he is not intimidated by the digital trend.

“When you think about the online versus the offline experience, we don’t need AI in our stores. We have ‘I,’” Metrick said. “We have living, breathing, 4,500 style advisors in our stores. The focus for Saks in the luxury space is really kind of convergence between tech and this living, breathing, selling associate.”

His comments were in response to questions about the ongoing evolution of retail, the growing focus on online shopping experiences and the emerging trend of AI-based commerce.

Leading that pack is eCommerce behemoth Amazon, which is aggressively expanding and forcing physical retail to adapt to and embrace eCommerce. In many cases, when retailers cannot compete with the online marketplaces, they are contracting their retail footprints to right-size operations and focus in on specific retail niches.

Even megaretailer Walmart has announced the closure and restructuring of several of its Sam’s Club-branded stores across the U.S. this week. That restructuring could put many employees out of their jobs.

According to recent employment data, traditional retail is surely shrinking. The U.S. Department of Labor reported a sudden, unexpected drop of 20,000 retail positions during the 2017 holiday shopping season, bringing the total job losses for the year to approximately 70,000.

The downward trend in retail employment is believed to be a result of the ongoing shift to eCommerce sales.

As has been the case with many other retailers, Saks Fifth Avenue’s parent company, Hudson’s Bay Co. (HBC), has also endured declining foot traffic and undertaken restructuring efforts to combat profit losses. These moves by HBC included job cuts.

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