Saks Fifth Avenue History

Handbags on display at Saks Fifth Avenue.
Handbags on display at Saks Fifth Avenue. (Image: John Sciulli/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images)

Saks Fifth Avenue has been one of New York's most famous department stores since it opened at 611 Fifth Avenue in 1924. The store is now a chain, boasting outposts all across the country. Enjoy some key facts about Saks from its development in the Jazz Age to its turn in cyberspace.

Early History

Saks Fifth Avenue was born from the combined effort of New York businessmen Horace Saks and Bernard Gimbel, who both operated stores in Manhattan's Herald Square area in the early 1900s. Both men wanted to create an upscale specialty store that would cater to New York's most fashionable clientele. In the 1920s, they purchased a site for their "dream store" on Fifth Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets. At the time, the site was home to the Democratic Club and the Buckingham Hotel, which were both demolished to make way for the new store.

The First Store

The first Saks Fifth Avenue store opened on September 15, 1924. As business boomed, a cousin of Horace Gimbel, Adam, became his right-hand man. Soon after Horace died suddenly (of septic poisoning) in 1925, Adam took over. Adam Gimbel gets the credit for building the store's vision and turning it into a national chain.

One of Adam Gimbel's first acts was to redecorate the flagship store in the Art Moderne style, featured at the 1925 Paris Exposition. Gimbel also broke up the department store into a series of specialty salons, to focus on his clients in a more intimate setting.


In the 1960s, Saks Fifth Avenue began expanding into the suburbs, and by the middle of that decade the chain had two dozen stores across the country. Between 1972 and 1989, 20 new stores opened, many in Texas and the Midwest. The first mail-order catalog for Saks Fifth Avenue, called Folio, also launched in the early 1970s.


A major renovation of the Manhattan flagship store began in 1978. In 1979 the store installed its first escalator. At the completion of renovation in 1990, with the addition of an office and retail complex behind the store, Saks had increased its selling space by 30 percent.

The 1990s

In 1990, Bahrain-based Investcorp International bought Saks Fifth Avenue for $1.6 billion.

The first Saks Fifth Avenue outlet store opened in Franklin Mills, Pennsylvania, in 1992. Initially called Clearinghouse, in 1995 its name was changed to Off 5th.

Saks debuted on Rodeo Drive in 1993. In 1994, the store began a push to expand into the West Coast, buying four former I. Magnin stores in Beverly Hills, Carmel, San Diego and Phoenix.

Saks Fith Avenue became a publicly traded company in 1996. In 1998, Saks Holdings, Inc. and Proffitt's, Inc merged, taking the company name of Saks Incorporated. launched In the summer of 2000.

Fun Fact

In 2007, the shoe department of Saks got its own zip code: 10022-SHOE. The department received the new code after the United States Postal Service began selling vanity ZIP codes to businesses. The move marked the first time the Postal Service used letters in a zip code, and the first time a single floor in a building received its own code.

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