Wednesday, August 17, 2016

1682 Mauling the Mall

Macy’s has dropped the other shoe.  First they announced they were about to close 100 of their underperforming stores.  A day later, they released the list.

Thousands of jobs will be lost. Acres retail space will be lost, mostly in shopping malls which are in sharp decline nationwide.

Macy’s is one of those here-forever brands whose base shoppers are clearly divided into three camps:

  1. “It’s where I go for everything.”
  2. “I shop there occasionally but how do they stay in business?”
  3. “I’m from Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin and I always stop at the main store in Manhattan when I visit New York but I haven’t bought anything there since 1974.”

Let’s get #3 out of the way first. The “main” or “flagship” store on 34th Street is a glorious museum from its ultramodern cosmetic cluster to its rickety ancient wooden riser escalators to its ornate gold leaf and marble doodads here, there and everywhere.

But it’s a mess. It’s understaffed and crowded with lookers from open to close.  And it has the whiff of struggle, and defensive glare about it.  It looks sweaty and unattended.  This is not a way to produce high volume even for the tourist from Fond Du Lac.

The problem they’re facing is internet competition combined with overreaching. Mostly it’s shooting themselves in the feet.

The current Macy’s, Inc. has almost nothing with the original.  It’s built on the bones of what used to be Federated Department Stores.  Federated is an old line company too.  It owned many brands.  

Then it went on a buying spree. It acquired its main competitor, Allied Stores in a hostile takeover.  That brought brands like Marshall Field, Lord & Taylor, and other big names into its fold.

When it bought Macy’s -- then emerging from bankruptcy -- someone at headquarters in Cincinnati had an “ahah!” moment.  (There’s something creepy about Macy’s headquarters in Cincinnati.”) Here’s the Ahah idea: “Macy’s is the most famous of our brands.  Let’s call ALL our stores Macy’s.”

Ask anyone in Chicago about replacing the Marshall Field sign on that store in the loop.  That was years ago, but a quiet boycott continues.

Ask anyone in Pittsburgh what they think about taking down the signs at Kaufmann’s.  Ask any Brooklynite about the shutdown of Abraham and Straus.

Overexpansion doesn’t work.  Staying in an office building on Ohio’s border with Kentucky doesn’t work. Big shots have to get out more.  Forcing legacy stores into a dress size too big doesn’t work.  They look frumpy.

So now comes the contraction.  And with it, the unemployment claims.

To borrow a concept from Yogi: No one goes to Macy’s anymore except to bowl in the empty aisles.

Shrapnel:
--Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane has been found guilty of perjury and obstruction.  Everyone seemed to think she was Wonder Woman. But she turned out to be just another prosecutor who thought herself above the law.

Today’s Quote: “...before Obama came along, we didn’t have any successful radical Islamic attack in the United States.” -- Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani whom no one would now remember were it not for a certain radical Islamic attack on America before Obama came along.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com

© WJR 2016

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