What’s the matter with Macy’s?

Here are two back-to-back posts at RetailWire, following Macy’s disappointing 3rd quarter earnings announcement. I’ve had plenty to say lately about the underlying problems with merchandise content that are plaguing many traditional department stores — not just Macy’s — especially in their women’s apparel businesses:


Perhaps the biggest problem facing Macy’s and its main competition is the merchandise content in women’s apparel. Kohl’s has openly acknowledged this issue and J.C. Penney tacitly admitted the same thing by restructuring its merchant team.

Walk Macy’s today: Too many brands, too little brand clarity, too much private label proliferation, too much duplication of assortment. For all of Macy’s advances in omnichannel, they need to get this right. There are simply too many strong competitors on the fast fashion and off-price front to ignore this.


We seem to be in a cycle where off-pricers and discounters are outperforming traditional department stores…but in a sense, the segment has been in a slow decline for many years. Macy’s acquisition of May didn’t happen because it was a growth industry but because there was strength in consolidation. And both fast fashion and e-commerce have had a more serious impact on apparel market share than once anticipated.

But Macy’s results in particular did appear to swamp the entire sector last week, including both Penney and Kohl’s who announced better-than-forecast sales. At the heart of the current department store malaise? Customers aren’t shopping for women’s apparel — the core business in this sector — perhaps because of the lack of any meaningful or exciting trend.

Colored denim and puffy coats are still selling but are not driving the shopper’s search for newness. And department stores’ dark, dreary approach to “fall merchandise” stands in stark contrast to stores like Uniqlo right now, who are in the business of selling bright color 12 months a year.


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