Think Saks Fifth Avenue and for most people the image will be of a grand department store situated on the thoroughfare of the same name in Manhattan.
The picture might even extend to one of the many branches to be found in malls across the US, normally as an anchor store.
It is unlikely, however, that Almaty, the commercial capital of Kazakhstan, will spring to mind. Yet this is the location of the newest Saks outpost and for those who make it here, the aspect will be remarkably close to what they might have encountered in America.
This branch, which is spread over three floors, is the anchor of the newly-opened Esentai Mall, a very well-appointed shopping centre on three levels in the heart of the city, and what really stands out is its use of mannequins. There was a time, not so long ago, when mannequins seemed to be headed the way of all flesh, or a plastic approximation of it, but of late they’ve been appearing everywhere and frequently in small gatherings.
Saks in Almaty is a case in point. Look around the interior of this store and, as well as being awed by the North American slickness of the vista, it’s difficult not to notice the many groups of mannequins that stand, sit and even perch in close proximity to each merchandise area.
The appearance is quite similar to looking at an ill-attended cocktail party in which the well-clad guests have broken up into small clusters and are looking around at what’s going on. A casual inspection of all three levels revealed that there is only one instance of a mannequin on its own – the party pooper, presumably.
Overall, this is an almost back-to-the-future view of department store retailing, and it works well.