Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Macy's Woos In-Person and Digital Shoppers

With 20 million visitors every year, Macy's sprawling Herald Square flagship store is a massive (2 million + square feet) retail location. Fifty years ago, this venerable store carried anything and everything a growing New York City family might need. Today, US department stores no longer stock fabric by the yard, needlepoint supplies, or paint-by-number hobby sets, but back then, Macy's had it all and a lot of choices--at a variety of price points from bargain-basement to couture-level!

Now this 34th Street flagship has emerged from a multiyear makeover, shined up, modernized, and remerchandised with an eye toward local/tourist shoppers. This is worth blogging about, because it represents the way merchandising was accomplished before computers.

Decades ago, buyers had offices in the main store and roamed the aisles to observe shopper behavior and ask questions about preferences. With input from department managers, merchandise managers, and store managers, the buyers would then tailor each branch's inventory allotment to the needs and buying patterns of shoppers in the local area. In this case, Macy's flagship is a tourist magnet, attracting shoppers from all over the planet. Therefore, Macy's must consider local shoppers (mid-career men and women, Millennials, families, etc) and the tastes of tourists from Europe, the Americas, Asia, and beyond. In fact, Macy's welcomes international shoppers by hosting a tourist bureau on its mezzanine level and offering a discount to shoppers who show a foreign passport.

Given the sheer size of the Macy's retail empire (nearly $28 billion in annual revenue derived from Macy's and Bloomingdale's stores), localizing merchandising is no small feat. This competitive effort has been going on since 2008, a way to distinguish Macy's from rivals and make the Macy's name represent a meaningful advantage in each local market. But the benefits outweigh the challenges, as the company understands. Having the appropriate mix of brands and products, in sizes and styles that fit local or tourist shoppers, will satisfy shoppers from near and far--and help Macy's top line and bottom line. Not to mention all the digital marketing initiatives undertaken by Macy's in recent years.

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