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Saks on the Block?: It’s the Bierut Effect

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The word on the street (and in the SEC files) is that Icelandic investment fund Baugur is planning a joint bid for Saks with Dubai-based retailer Landmark Group. Baugur already controls 8.5% of shares in the American department store group, which includes 54 Saks Fifth Avenue stores, 49 Off Fifth stores, saks.com, and the specialty store chain Club Libby Lu. The financial media would have you believe that news of Baugur’s stake and the buyout gossip are driving Saks’ soaring share price (shares are up over 25% since September), but we offer another theory: it’s the Bierut effect!

Michael Bierut‘s eye-catching chopped-up checkerboard identity for 83-year-old Saks Fifth Avenue launched on January 2, 2007, as we told you last Christmastime. Inspired by the boldness of two of our favorite artists, Franz Kline and Barnett Newman, the new identity system slimmed down Tom Carnese-for-Massimo Vignelli‘s 1973 Saks logo, placed it inside a black square (paging Kasimir Malevich!), and subdivided that square into 64 smaller ones (a move that surely pleased Sol Lewitt in his final days). The result? An infinitely modular system that has popped up on everything from Saks shopping bags and ads to store rugs and an Ellen Tracy skirt.

As our handy graph above indicates, Saks’ monthly sales (as measured by percentage change in comparable store sales) since the launch of the new logo have consistently outperformed those of 2006 and 2005. In June, things took a tumble, but we have an explanation for that outlier: Bierut’s book was released on May 24th. Clearly, all of the Bierut-lovin’, would-be Saks shoppers were spending their money elsewhere in June, not to mention busy reading (there were 79 essays after all).

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