Wanting Macy’s To Be Something More

greg sleterIf imitation is indeed the most sincere form of flattery, then there are a few retailers that should feel good about themselves.

Recently, Macy’s held its annual meeting and discussed several initiatives the company feels will help boost sales and turnaround the struggling department store retailer. Among the ideas discussed were adding its Backstage off-price concept to its mainline stores and overhauling its shoe department to make it self-service.

Nothing terribly radical, mind you, but they are trying.

When it comes to footwear, outside of the four or five pairs of shoes and sneakers I own, I have little interest. Recently, I was in need of new sneakers and I was taken to DSW Shoe Warehouse for my first visit to the footwear retailer.

After spending a few minutes taking stock of the store’s inventory in its self-serve format, I was pleased that my first visit to DSW was a success.

But then it hit me. A shoe retailer that is well-merchandised, is fully stocked and whose store personnel is not pushy but around if help is needed as they kept the store clean and the shelves filled with product.

I then walked next door to Marshalls for some outerwear. I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice it to say brand-name merchandise was purchased for what, to me, was a good value.

As I drove home thinking about my shopping experience, a thought hit me. Macy’s wants to be DSW and Marshalls.

As someone in their late 40s who grew up with Macy’s as our family’s retailer of choice and the store that carried so much meaning during the holidays, I felt melancholy.

Macy’s was once the retailer we looked to for the latest in fashion and home products. Now, they are copying closeout retailers and specialty shoe stores in an effort to revive sales. This is no knock on DSW or Marshalls. They should take the compliment.

But something seems amiss. Or maybe the world of retail has changed forever.

Some would argue that Macy’s is reacting to the needs of today’s shoppers. There is some validity to that. But where’s the differentiation? If every retailer is just like the other, what drives me to the mall-based store instead of the store in the strip mall just minutes from my home?

Better yet, what keeps me from firing up the Amazon app on my tablet and buying what I need while sitting in my living room?