THE VP OF THE GARDEN STATE’S EXCLUSIVE SAKS FIFTH AVENUE HAS ENJOYED SUCCESSFUL STINTS AT THE ICONIC STORE’S FLAGSHIP LOCATIONS. NOW, IN HIS NEW ROLE, CUSTOMERS AND COLLEAGUES AT THE NJ LOCALE DRIVE HIS PASSION FOR SUCCESS
BY ELIZABETH HAZARD PHOTOS BY ERIC COLEMAN
Eric Vanderpool Ohman has come a long way from his first sales job at a local boutique after college, earning $4 an hour plus 4% commission. Today, after many years of hard work and time spent climbing the retail ladder, he is the vice president and general manager of Saks Fifth Avenue NJ. In 2021, he was asked to reintroduce the iconic brand to the NJ market when it opened its doors at American Dream in East Rutherford. Ohman jokingly refers to this role as his “fourth tour of duty at SFA,” as he previously held positions at the brand’s Chicago, Beverly Hills West Coast Flagship, and New York Flagship locations. He said it was during his time working in New York that he was able to solidify key relationships and gain the institutional knowledge necessary to take on this new role.
It’s a position the Midwest native takes great pride in, finding the competitive nature of the commission-based environment thrilling. “One of the great things about retail, as cliché as it may sound, is that no two days are the same. Heck, no two hours are the same. However nothing is more important or fulfilling than spending quality time working alongside the management team and associates I support.”
When asked about the most rewarding and challenging aspects of the job, Ohman is quick to talk about what he considers the biggest reward for him, and that is the people: both customers and colleagues. “Nothing is more rewarding than truly getting to know my colleagues and watching them grow,” he said. “This may be professionally or in something as tangible as the evolution of their fashion aesthetic. The relationships I’ve developed with my colleagues and clients are genuinely important to me and oftentimes lifelong.”
In regards to challenges, he’s hard pressed to think of something. “I honestly can’t name what the most challenging part of this job is, as the people who I have the opportunity to work with outweigh any challenges.”
Having been with Saks Fifth Avenue for the past seven years in a variety of roles, Ohman has borne witness to many changes and challenges for the company. He said, “It’s been an eventful seven years, between the renovation of our storied flagship, the recent separation of our digital and store businesses, and the opening of our New Jersey store during a pandemic. Through each of these initiatives, we’ve taken bold and innovative risks to revolutionize the retail industry, and one thing remains consistent: our commitment to offering a personalized, luxury shopping experience for every customer.”
Adding to the luxury of the shopping experience, it doesn’t hurt that Saks Fifth Avenue is housed in American Dream, a lively shopping destination that isn’t a traditional mall. Ohman joked that his friend referred to his place of work as “the mall that is more of an all.” He said that there truly is something for everyone on site, from upscale retailers like Saks to best-in-class attractions and outstanding dining options. “There aren’t many other destinations where a person can shop for a $5,000 handbag, go skiing indoors, and finish the day with a bespoke cocktail. Simply put, it’s not just a mall, it’s an experience,” he said.
Having grown up in the Midwest and worked in Chicago, Beverly Hills, and New York, Ohman said that the New Jersey clientele at Saks Fifth Avenue NJ is different. “The New Jersey customer is definitive and intentional in what they want. They have welcomed us with open arms, and the response around Saks re-entering the market has been incredible. Being in NYC’s backyard, our customers are on the cutting edge of fashion, and that is clearly reflected in their purchases.”
When asked what drives both his personal success as well as the success of the store, Ohman said it’s equal parts tenacity and patience. “At Saks, we focus heavily on growing our client relation – ships and offering unique, curated experiences for them. We think about it daily as a team and are proud of what we are able to offer our customers. In my personal opinion, we stand out in this area.”
A fan of the store himself and regular customer, the VP said the store’s beauty department is his favorite section – and regular temptation. “There’s not a day that goes by when I’m not tempted by (and often give in to) the desire to try a new skincare product. I think I am currently rotating about six different moisturizers. And don’t even get me started on the serums.”
When he’s not working with customers or colleagues at the store, Ohman said he spends his days off enjoying the outdoors. “Growing up in the Midwest, if you don’t camp on the forest floor or drink water from a tree, you’re accused of being a ‘city-slicker.’ Having now lived in the Northeast, I’ve realized I am actually much more outdoorsy than most. So on a day off, there is a decent chance that I’m off exploring somewhere. Recently, I hiked to the top of both Slide Mountain in New York and High Point in Sussex County. I’m also a shameless sun-worshiper, so a fair amount of this summer was spent down by the shore soaking up whatever rays I could find, wearing my favorite SPF cream from our beauty department of course. Lastly, if I’m being truthful, a vodka martini is often involved.”
Saks Fifth Avenue at American Dream
1 American Dream Way, East Rutherford 201.559.7780 / americandream.com