macy’s Is Learning

macys2In an article called “Macy’s Discovers the Strength of Independent Retailers”,  “Retailing Together” reports on Macy’s recent announcement that they are laying off 7,000 workers and moving the merchandising and buying decisions into local district offices.  It seems that Macy’s has discovered that markets are different and that consumers, especially in the Midwest, like to have a part in the buying decision, too.  Imagine that!

Here in St. Louis, our traditional department store was Famous-Barr, part of the May Company.  When Federated Department Stores bought May in  2006   , the promise was that local management would be retained and that shoppers would notice little difference.  But it didn’t take long to see changes in the stores’ merchandise.

Famous-Barr became Macy’s and buyers located in the Midwest were replaced with national buyers.  Turns out not to have been such a great decision.  Now Macy’s is doing a 180 and trying to recover lost customers and sales.

Meanwhile, independent retailers just keep on doing what they’ve been doing all along.  If ladies in Missouri like a certain style of shoe, the local shoe store has them while Macy’s has been trying to force them to wear something else.

If gentlemen in Iowa prefer tweed sport coats, that’s what the local men’s shop is carrying while the national chain’s trendy offerings crowd the closeout rack.

On the other side of the coin, the agility and flexibility of the local merchant make it much easier for them to react when local tastes do change.

I hate to age myself, but I was working for a national retail chain in the early ‘7os.  The disco craze made Nehru jackets a hot item.  All the local stores (including Famous-Barr) had them in stock.  By the time my company’s buyers in New York reacted to the trend, got orders through the beaurocracy,  and got merchandise into the stores, I got my Nehru jackets the day after all the local stores had put them on closeout.

Not much has changed.  Customers are still  looking for value, not just price.  They’re looking for personal service, not an hour-long wait in a checkout line.  They’re looking for a place, like Cheers, “where everybody knows your name.”

And that, my friends, is what independent business is all about.

Episode 8

Welcome to Mining the Store, the podcast for small business owners who want to mine more gold from their businesses.  This is Episode 8.

There’s no “I” in podcast, so your comments are very important.  You can leave a comment here on the show notes page.  Or, you can email your comment to  If you’d like to leave an audio comment, you can attach an mp3 file to your email.

Skype users can leave an audio comment at mike.buckley3.

My Twitter ID is michaelbuckley and you can also find me on Friendfeed.

Mining the Store is a member of the blubrry podcast network,

The Twilight Zone

The Twilight Zone

This episode we focus on bad customer service.  But first, notice our new blog page.  We’ve moved the show notes page from our podcast host, Libsyn to WordPress.  We hope you like the new look.

3:15  Poor customer service
4:25  Macy’s fails to deliver.
8:20  Zoli Erdos and expired Milka chocolate from Belgian Chocolate Online.
13:21  A hospital drops the ball when it comes to looking out for the customer.
17:25  Conclusion.  We have to put the customer first to survive.

Direct download: Episode_8.mp3