Friday, February 08, 2008

An article in the St. Louis Post Dispatch this week announced that Macy's would be closing their regional headquarters here. The headquarters was, from what I can gather, patched together from the remains of the old May Company headquarters before it was bought out several years ago. The company has been having financial trouble, and, surprise-surprise, their midwestern stores are especially struggling after being "re-branded" to Macy's.

I keep wondering if the people who planned the buyout and changeover from Famous Barr, LS Ayres, Lord & Taylor, and the late-addition of Marshall Fields really did any research before plastering up their new neon signs and swapping out the product lines. Did they bother to ask any of their potential consumers about their wants, needs, preferences in shopping? Certainly they did not predict the backlash in Chicago when the huge downtown Marshall Fields's was renamed. Heck, I'm not even from there, just a semi-frequent visitor, and I was sad to know that it was being changed.

Locally, I'm not sure I've shopped in the former Famous Barr in the Galleria more than 2 or 3 times since it changed over. I used to shop there a lot. Their 15 hour sales were always packed, and every time I would wander through the store (I usually parked in the garage outside it), I would find myself drawn to the clothing displays. Lately, when I've bothered to go in, I see it all as an outsider. The clothes are beautiful and trendy, and I alway think to myself, "Who actually wears those?" They remind me of some of the smaller boutiques in the mall, full of clothes for tall, skinny, beautiful, club-hopping women with fat wallets (or at least, large credit limits). Sure, there is a market for that kind of shopping, but a whole department store full of them?

Granted, I do not work in a fashion-conscious industry. As a software developer, I work with mainly male engineers, who consider a pair of khaki's and a polo shirt to be dressed up. But even in a previous job where I was a "consultant" and sent in front of non-engineering customers, expected to dress appropriately, I wouldn't have bought most of what I see at Macy's these days.

I'm not thrilled with their housewares section either. I like to browse through kitchenware and china and crystal, and have been known to repeatedly "visit" items that I'd like to buy (but haven't yet found the budget for). Even there, I'm not that impressed with what they have. I feel like they are providing us with fewer options, not better ones, and their prices went up. Maybe they have to do that in order to stay profitable. But zero sales at a higher price is going to bring in fewer dollars than paltry sales at a less profitable price.

At this point, it would be hard work for them to buy back my shopping loyalty, and they're not going to do it on the strength of their NYC brand name alone.

No comments: