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Shoe Department Showdown: Sak's, Neiman's and Barneys

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San Francisco's three (arguably) fanciest department stores—Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, and Barneys, all have opulent, crave-inducing shoe departments. In the spirit of friendly competition, we wanted to determine how they stack up against each other in a series of objective measurements.

So we sent Racked SF spies, armed only with note-taking tools and a tape measure (you'll see where that comes in!), to each store to learn everything you'd care to know about shopping here, from staff attentiveness to the comfort of the seating, to the least and most expensive shoes you can find.

1. What is the general vibe of the place? Loud or quiet? Casual or formal?
Neiman's: Quiet and formal. The salesmen wear suits, and everyone speaks in hushed tones; even the women who shop with their dogs.
Saks: Glass orbs are suspended from the ceiling. It felt like being at an elegant cocktail party that I was underdressed for.
Barneys: Soft music and an updated modern layout. Shoes are displayed like diamonds in the rough: shiny footwear against a wood backdrop.

2. Are men's shoes included, or is the selection just for women?
Neiman's: The main section is just for women. Gentlemen must venture downstairs to shop.
Saks: Nope, different department
Barneys: No, in another department

3. How many other shoppers do you see?
Neiman's: About 10, but it was a weekday afternoon
Saks: 22
Barneys: 5

4. If you had to guess, where would you think most of the shoppers were from?
Neiman's: Pac Heights, with a smattering of Sea Cliff for good measure
Saks: A LOT of grandmas and ladies who lunch (Nob Hill) plus a lot of foreign tourists.
Barneys: Marin, or the fancier neighborhoods (Pacific Heights, Russian Hill)—think the stylish mom who works at SFMOMA

5. How would you describe the decor in three words?
Neiman's: 50 Shades of Beige. (Three words and a numeral count, right?)
Saks: Fancy, New York, Showroom
Barneys: Luxurious, artsy, geometric

6. Are they playing music? What kind?
Neiman's: Unobjectionable pop tunes—though I nearly fainted when I heard Demi Lovato
Saks: Smooth, reassuring jazz
Barneys: Upbeat, modern tunes with a dash Elvis Presley

7. How attentive is the sales staff? How long does it take for them to offer to help you when you walk in?
Neiman's: Attentive, but not overbearing—more focused on creating long-term client relationships than generating same-day sales
Saks: Extremely helpful and friendly—the shoe department manager told me all about his 30-years of experience at Saks
Barneys: They said "hello" to me after 10 minutes. I was sitting down before they decided to say hi.

8. On a scale of 1 to 10, with one being a ditch by the side of the road and 10 being a fluffy pink cloud, how comfortable is the seating?
Neiman's: 6. he sofas are deep, which means you have to maintain perfect posture while perched on the edge of the seat.
Saks: 6
Barneys: 8

9. What brands are they really pushing? Are any labels especially prominent?
Neiman's: Christian Louboutin, Chanel, Manolo Blahnik, Prada
Saks: Prada, Reed Krakoff, Alexander McQueen
Barneys: Louboutin, Rag & Bone, Walter Steiger, Celine and Jil Sander

10. How high is the highest available heel?
Neiman's: 6.25 inches on the Christian Louboutin Botticellita Spiked Platform Sandal. (The website says 6 inches, but the tape measure begs to differ)
Saks: 6.3 inches on Louboutin Swarovski crystal-encrusted pumps
Barneys: 7 staggering inches on Louboutin fringe boots

11. How expensive is the most expensive shoe you can find?
Neiman's: $3,995. The highest price comes with the highest heel, the spikey-Louboutin.
Saks: Crystal-coated Louboutins, $3,895.00
Barneys: Same as Saks! Crystal-coated Louboutins, $3,895.00

12. How cheap is the cheapest shoe you can find?
Neiman's: $125 Tory Burch flip flop.
Saks: Tory Burch sandal, $76
Barneys: Rag & Bone leather sandal, $230

13. What's the square footage of the shoe floor?
Neiman's: 4,000 square feet.
Saks: 20,000 square feet, including sales and stock area
Barneys: Sales people would not disclose

14. How many pairs of shoes are they selling?
Neiman's: Approximately 10,000 pairs in the stock room.
Saks: Approx 500 according to the department manager
Barneys: Again, sales people would not give up that info. Ball park estimate: 350-400

15. Finish this sentence: "This shoe department is best if you're looking for...
Neiman's: ...6-inch heels or flats, but nothing in between."
Saks: ...shoes to attend a garden party or that you'll hoard as a wealthy octogenarian."
Barneys: ...the latest off-the-runway styles that your favorite fashion Bloggers are already wearing."
--by Robyn Hagan Cain (Neiman's) and Sara Iravani (Saks and Barneys)