January 5th, 2017

Macy’s: going, going…

…and I hope not “gone.”

Macy’s is closing a great many of its brick and mortar stores:

Macy’s said Wednesday it’s shutting down 68 stores and cutting more than 10,000 jobs.

The announcement was issued alongside an unfavorable earnings report, showing comparable store sales dipped 2.1% last quarter. The news caused its stock to plunge nearly 10% during after-hours trading Wednesday.

Macy’s (M) said it expects to layoff about 3,900 workers as a result of the upcoming store closures, and another 6,200 jobs will be cut as the company works to streamline its management team, according to a press release.

I remember decades ago when Macy’s was very much in the ascendance, as other giants like Filene’s paid the price.

I happen to love Macy’s. Well, maybe “love” is too strong a word, but it’s where I do most of my shopping—in the brick-and-mortar store, rather conveniently located, inexpensive, at least moderately stylish, and full of variety.

And where I still can actually try things on.

Yes, we ladies need to see what it looks like and what it fits like, because there are myriad differences in cut and style and comfort, as well as variance between what a photo looks like and what the real fabrics and colors look like. For those reasons, I almost never buy clothing online unless it’s a duplicate of a garment I’ve already purchased. Even then I’m wary, because sometimes it seems to be the same garment and says it’s the same garment but really hasn’t been, particularly in terms of fit.

I hate paying the postage to send and/or return. I hate the back-and-forth. I like browsing around in an actual store with real garments, looking at what’s available and getting ideas. Sometimes I even like interacting in the non-virtual world with salespeople.

I spend so much time at my computer already that I don’t want to do all my shopping on it, too. I’ve noticed that, with clothing in particular, it only seems convenient and time-saving to do so. But there’s an endless online supply of goods and of places to get them. That may seem good at first blush, but it can be exhausting and very time-consuming. The pages with the little photos take forever to load. You have to click and click and click to see the colors and make those little photos bigger.

It’s not fun at all; not for me, anyway. Shopping in a store for clothing may not be the funnest thing in the world either, but it’s a tactile and visual and social pleasure compared to online shopping. And my local stores are almost never crowded (I suppose that’s part of the problem, as far as the stores are concerned). Granted, they’re also understaffed, but I don’t like salespeople bugging me and asking me whether I’ve found everything I want, anyway.

That’s why I want my relatively-local Macy’s to stay put, thank you very much. So far, so good. But I don’t have a good feeling about this whole thing.

And it’s not just Macy’s, it’s the whole concept of non-online shopping. Amazon is great for books and a host of other things (buy through neoneocon; Amazon portal on the right sidebar!!)—even refrigerators, it turns out, as I’m in the market for one that doesn’t appear in my local stores. But please don’t take my Macy’s away!

30 Responses to “Macy’s: going, going…”

  1. Ann Says:

    I’m waiting for the Trump tweet about how this is because they dumped Trump-brand products a year or so ago.

  2. y81 Says:

    “[W]e ladies need to see what it looks like and what it fits like . . . .”

    If anything, men’s clothing is much more fitted than women’s. A skirt can have a variety of lengths, but if a man has pants an inch too short, people will jeer at him in the streets. You couldn’t possibly buy a men’s suit or sports coat online. Maybe jeans, if you know your exact size with that manufacturer.

  3. neo-neocon Says:


    I wonder whether you’ve taken a good look at how fitted women’s clothing is these days.

    And hems are almost unimportant in the equation. It’s easy—very easy—to hem something, pants or skirts (women wear pants these days at least as much if not more than they wear skirts, by the way), or to have them hemmed professionally.

    Women’s styles, cut, and bodies vary tremendously, more than men’s. It is much easier, I’ve found, to buy men’s clothes through mail order or online, or even just by size in a store without the man trying it on. For women, I’ve found it to be virtually impossible.

  4. Kyndyll G Says:

    I love Macy’s. Classy but not stuffy; lets me feel like a grown-up, but not necessarily like I’m my mom’s age; and, particularly when you play their sales right, hits the right balance of getting decent stuff at a fair price. I buy a lot at Macy’s.

    I agree with Neo. There’s certain things you can buy online all day long, but not attire. Not only does it ruin the fun, how an article of clothing feels, and how it looks – on you – makes a lot of difference. Unless I’m buying another of a known, specific thing I’ve bought before, or buying something unusual that you just aren’t going to find in a commercial retail shop near you, I don’t buy clothes and shoes online.

  5. chuck Says:

    Ah, Macys, where I dumped a box of loose super balls down the trash shoot on the 5’th floor during a Christmas season part time job.

  6. Ann Says:

    Just saw a funny tweet about this by a British historian, Sir Richard Evans: ‏

    I see Macy’s is in trouble. Went there on my first US visit in 1980. A sign said “No strollers”. I quickened my pace, admiring American vim.

  7. chuck Says:

    shoot <- chute.

  8. DirtyJobsGuy Says:

    I was recently in Japan and went with local friends to a restaurant in a large department store. It reminded my of Macy’s Herald Square store in NYC. But the goods are all higher end products. It makes me think that the department store product with more trained and competent sales staff and product support is best suited to urban locations. Once you have to drive it’s easy to go to specialist stores along the way. But also the prime sales today are clothes and margins are tight. In the days when all clothes were expensive (I remember my mom’s pattern books!) you wanted to try on and get assistance in buying them. Now it is not worth you while to repair rips!

    Amazon’s great downfall will be the large number of new Chinese vendors/suppliers in all areas. It is difficult to wander through pages of oddly named products with no brand history. Perhaps then the Macy’s of the world can survive.

  9. parker Says:

    I never buy pants I can not try on as every manufacturer varies. When I buy other apparel I find that medium no longer is necessarily medium. I rarely buy anything on line except reloading supplies. Powder is powder, primers are primers, and brass is brass. Some things still remain the same.

    However, Mrs parker has a thing for ordering shoes on line. She qualifies for the role of the first lady of the Philippines.

  10. Tuvea Says:

    The people ‘in charge’ at Macy’s choose poorly.

    They bought Marshall Field’s that was based in Chicago.

    Instead of repairing that famous Midwestern brand they renamed all those stores Macy’s. The aisles were filled with what looked like clutter. And they must have ‘right-sized’ the sales staff.

    Needless to say lots of us Chicagoland types stopped shopping there.

    I’m not surprised that are losing sales in other parts of the country too.

  11. Yankee Says:

    Not just Macy’s, but also Sears, with that company closing many stores, as well as selling off its Craftsman brand to raise needed cash (a deal meaning wider distribution of the brand instead of just at Sears, and with Sears still able to collect royalties on the brand).

    It’s not just clothes you have to try on, since you have to make sure your tools fit your hand well, and have the proper design aesthetics.

    Some smaller stores might pick up extra sales when others go out of business. But likewise some areas, like large malls without those big “anchor stores” might see a decline. It will be interesting to see what big real estate companies do (Simon Property Group, and others) when they try to configure their malls for future retail trends.

  12. DNW Says:

    Funny. I was just reading about department store closings today.

    The only experience I have had with Macy’s was at Christmas a couple years back; buying my significant other an everyday dress wool coat and a couple pair of leather gloves which she really liked.

    I’m not much of a shopper but the quality seemed to be adequate, and the last minute sale prices were good – or so it seemed to me … like, half price. Course it probably wasn’t 1,500 (or whatever) in the first place.

    Now for the interesting part. There is something fascinating about these edifices and working spaces as public/private environments, per se.

    That Christmas Eve-eve trip had been the first time I had gone into a department store in a long, long while. Holiday desperation having driven me to it.

    But once inside there, memories of these buildings came flooding back, and I remembered how they used to have different floors for different things, and out-of-the way departments that were interesting – in a mild kind of way – to small kids. “What’s a “lay-a-way” Mom?”; “Can we go into that restaurant and have a chili dog”?; “What’s down that long hallway past those couches?”

    Someone ought to get permission to film the cafeterias, lounges, power rooms, machine spaces, head offices, custodial areas , mini restaurants and all the other neat stuff that is hidden away in these buildings. And then post it on YouTube before it is all gone.

  13. DNW Says:

    Of course when I speak of these buildings as being interesting, I am referring to the pre-1970s models that really were brick and mortar and multi-story.

    I suppose the same could be said for 20th century interwar years office buildings of the modest skyscraper sort.

    Even old university buildings would qualify, as would county and golf clubs.

  14. DNW Says:

    Ok, already done more or less


  15. neo-neocon Says:


    The buildings of the department stores in Manhattan were wonderful! The elevators there were very special, too. The stores used to have a lot of empty space in the merchandise areas when I was young, so it wasn’t crowded and you could easily view what they had.

    And as far as restaurants in stores went, the greatest one by far (for ambience, when I was a child) was this one in B. Altman. I used to sometimes go there with my mother when I was little, and it was magical—looked like you were outside in a garden in the South.

    And see this.

  16. Nick Says:

    Elevators? The escalators were the way to go in the department stores. You could look out over everything. If you were a kid, this was your only chance to get a decent view. (It was also cool to work on your mount/dismount timing on an escalator when you were a kid.)

  17. Sgt. Mom Says:

    I had a lovely seasonal job, immediately after I retired from the military, at a Marshal Field’s store in San Antonio. They were closing the store – which is why a certain retailer of fur coats took up a concession in the store for the last quarter of that year.
    It was a lovely, and endlessly entertaining job for those three months until the store closed permanently on Christmas eve. I think now that was the last gasp of old-fashioned up-scale retail. I had such fun – among them being the fact that my then-16 year-old daughter got hired to work there as well. M-F had a full-time alterations department, the staff worked on basic salary plus percentage on sales, and had an amazing employee discount.
    I was also amazed to discover that “Are You Being Served” was a documentary …

    As for myself, I buy my ordinary clothes at the thrift-shop. Jeans, tee-shirts, long-sleeved shirts. Workout clothes at Costco or Sams … the author – event clothes, I make myself, to fit perfectly. Yes, my mother taught me early on, how to do custom clothing.

  18. DNW Says:

    Neo says check this out … http://www.thedepartmentstoremuseum.org/

    Huh. Guess I am not the only one who finds something about these structures and environments compelling in some odd way.

    People always marvel, and rightly so, over fleet carriers and their city on the sea analogy.

    There may be something vaguely like it at work in classic department stores or skyscrapers … with childhood memories of exploration and holidays thrown in, in the case of the latter.

    By the way, I have had heard number of women more or less like yourself, echo your remarks about some particular restaurant their aunt or mother used to take them to.

    One of my, eh, fiancees, used to talk nostalgically about her aunt taking her on excursions to a special restaurant downtown, which was in, or next to, a landmark department store.

    Sort of like being granted your first hunting knife by Dad … maybe.

  19. neo-neocon Says:


    Perfect analogy.

    Shopping with my mother in Manhattan is a pretty consistently happy memory. A few problems, but not many. They used to have a free service (I think if you had a charge account) where they would send what you bought to your home, so you didn’t have to lug it all around.

    At that Charleston Garden restaurant they had things like watercress sandwiches, I think. I don’t remember what I ordered there.

  20. neo-neocon Says:


    Did you grow up in NYC? And if so, when?

    To the best of my recollection, in the era I’m talking about the stores I’m talking about didn’t have escalators. I don’t remember them at all. They had elevators, a whole bank of fancy fancy ones with brass doors and elevator operators who announced the floors.

    I’m not talking about Macy’s in Manhattan, by the way. I’m talking about mostly the 5th Ave. stores between (if I recall correctly) 38th store (Lord & Taylor) and the 50s (I think Bonwit Teller was the final one). Also, there was the children’s store Best & Co., which was in the 30s, too.

  21. charles Says:

    Sigh – another “famous” brand closing down. Maybe not completely. But, I have a feeling they won’t turn around anytime soon, if at all.

    For many years I always made sure that I bought the stuffed animal for Christmas (the first I believe was Baber) and gave them to nieces when they were little. I guess I stopped shopping there when I stopped buying those as the nieces grew up.

    As for Sears – yea, we did a lot of buying from them for years. Everything was Kenmore and craftsman. I still have several of my Dad’s craftsman tools; even if I don’t use them. (really, living in an apartment I have no need for a saw!)

    However, I stopped going there several years ago when I had trouble with a small dehumidifier and the only person in customer service waited on all the Spanish-speaking customers before me even though I had been waiting longer. Clearly, I, as an Anglo, wasn’t welcome. So, I made sure my money wasn’t welcome there either. Their loss, not mine.

  22. Esther Says:

    The Macy’s in Manhattan is absolutely not the same store as the sad, generic Macy’s in the suburbs near where I live.

    Once I found a pair of Levi’s there that fit like a dream, but had to order them online because the store didn’t carry my size. And why so many plastic handbags, polyester scarves and ridiculous heels?

    Sears, I don’t understand why they’re failing. They have tools, garage stuff, appliances, decent mattresses, and the only place with glasses that fit my husband’s enormous head.

    But, how many Shreks or string beans are out there? few apparently.

  23. y81 Says:

    “The escalators were the way to go in the department stores.”

    And also, if your mom got distracted, you could run away and run the wrong way on the nearest escalator. Which resulted in dire punishment–in fact, we only did it once–but it was worth it.

    Picking up from neocon, my recollection is that the high-end stores (e.g., Saks) didn’t have escalatosr, but Macy’s did. In fact, they have some of the original ones, with wooden treads, still operating in the Manhattan store. At the real high end, Brooks Brothers didn’t have escalators until maybe ten years ago.

  24. Jim Miller Says:

    Politically incorrect observation: From a very early age — perhaps 18 months — girls are much more likely to be interested in shopping than boys. You can see the difference in supermarkets, when moms have taken their little kids shopping with them.

    (I may be an extreme case of that difference, as far as clothes go. When I first began to buy my own clothes, my mother had to order me to try on clothes before I bought them.)

  25. Jim Miller Says:

    y81 – Like you, I grew up thinking of Brooks Brothers as a high end brand. Which it is, mostly.

    But then, years and years ago, I saw an article (in Esquire?) describing, somewhat admiringly, Brooks Brothers as a pacifist’s choice, a brand for executives who didn’t want to compete in clothes with other executives.

    I suspect there are similar brands for women.

    (Incidentally, I consider too much attention to clothes in a CEO a “sell” signal. Assuming they aren’t in the fashion industry, of course.)

  26. Lee Says:

    Macy’s is/was a gagantuan eating machine that gobbled department store after Department store, tuning them into another zombie Macy’s or killing them off entirely. Different stores had different “personalities” but that ceased to exist after Macy’s came through. I grew up in the Midwest. In a reasonable drive we had Block’s, LS Ayers, Shillito’s, Rike’s, Pogue’s, Lazarus… All eaten up be Macy’s.

  27. Michael Adams Says:

    For us, one of the great t hings about the big department stores was their bargain basements. Scarborough’s in Austin, where I bought my first suit, a gray flannel three piece, Joske’s in San Antonio, Niemans in Dallas, Rich’s in Atlanta, every city had that one wonderful store., and the future denizens of Wal-Mart shopped the sales. The Scarborough’s downtown, on Congress Avenue, was a creaky old building, with floors that had interesting waves in them, and old ladies who helped my young wife get the right size bra, and the alterations ladies who made my suit look like bespoke tailoring. OK, I am waxing nostalgic, and buying clothes ought not to be a spiritual experience, or the substitute for one, but, we do miss those places.

    Like Sgt Mom, who, BTW looks pretty good in her thrift-store rags, as does her daughter, we miss the old stores. As for my family, our new underwear might come from Wal-Mart, and be much cheaper in constant dollars that forty years ago, but a suit will eventually be revealed at the thrift store. I don’t know who actually buys the clothes when they are new, but someone must, or there would be no more old clothes in the Goodwill.

    I like the fact that our clothing budget has not kept up with our income, but the people who worked in the old department stores were certainly nice to us customers, not something you always find in the thrift store.

  28. Beverly Says:

    I had lunch once, about 30 years ago! at B. Altman’s in Manhattan (I still miss that oasis of gentility). In the Charleston Garden that Neo refers to: there was a string quartet playing chamber music, and all the tables had these marvelous shelves for your pocketbook! a real treat for Ladies Who Lunch.

    Shopping was recreational, the gents were at the office, and it was sweet to be a well-cared-for wife!


    Mark Steyn struck a valedictory note for the shopping mall on the Rush Limbaugh show today. His daughter wanted him to go with her to the “Zombie Shopping Mall” somewhere in the south of England: someone had bought an empty shopping mall, hired actors to play zombies, and rented out paintball guns for the customers to “kill” the zombies.

    Mark said it was rather exciting, but he mourned the death of real-live in-person shopping. All due to the Internet. Where, he asked, are the JOBS going to come from?

  29. Beverly Says:

    If Macy’s dies, folks, There Goes the Thanksgiving Parade and the Fourth of July Fireworks!!!


    In Atlanta, the great department store was Rich’s. They had the Best Christmas extravaganza ever: yes, way better than Macy’s and Gimble’s in NYC.

    In a skybridge between two buildings, they had REAL reindeer, each in its own stall with his name on it. Santa was great, but the piece de resistance was The PINK PIG.

    Ask anyone from Georgia over the age of 50 about the Pink Pig, and brace yourself for a flood of nostalgia. Rich’s toy department had a pink metal monorail affixed to the ceiling, with a pig’s face on the front car, that was kid-sized: grownups couldn’t ride in it!

    So we kids would line up in the toy department, and the ramp going up to the loading platform was behind a wall. You’d get into the little monorail, and ‘fly’ around the toy department ceiling, looking down at all the kids and parents.

    How magical was that????

    Now, the monorail was eventually retired in 1991, and was a legend for a while, then Macy’s (which had consumed Rich’s) tried to bring it back: but the new version was a pale reflection of the original. It’s a pink pig train, runs around on the floor in a separate tent next to the store. Ya feel me?

    Here’s the original Rich’s Pink Pig. Note the photo with the little kid onboard, that will give you the scale. Heck, Amazon can’t give kids these kinds of memories: https://wdanielanderson.wordpress.com/2013/12/24/happy-holidays-from-georgia/

  30. Sam P Says:

    Lee: Macy’s is actually one of those victims. Federated Department Stores has been buying regional department store chains for more than half a century. Macy’s was their big victim in the 1990s. After the purchase, Federated renamed itself Macy’s, about a decade later is when it renamed a whole bunch of its stores to Macy’s.

    Filene’s is actually one of the original stores that was merged to form Federated back in 1929.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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