Competing with retailers like T.J. Maxx and Nordstrom’s own off-price brand Nordstrom Rack, Macy's is launching off-price "Backstage" stores. The stores, the first of which opened last week in the New York City area, will offer 20-80% discounts on designer brands and Macy's private labels.
This latest venture signals Macy's focus on (who else?) millennials. More specifically — millennial moms who are not quite yet at the income level to shop full-price at Macy’s stores. In seeking to capture their loyalty at these new Backstage stores, Macy's is betting on the millennial mom to transfer dollars to its full-price department stores as their income grows with age.
Preceding the store openings, RetailWire, an online retail discussion forum, asked its BrainTrust panel of retail experts the following questions:
- How effective will Macy's Backstage be in the company's efforts to reach the millennial mom?
- What advantages can Macy's exploit in bringing unique experiences to the off-price channel?
Here are some of the best perspectives from that discussion. Comments have been edited by Retail Dive for content and length.
1. Macy's move will create a disconnect with shoppers
Camille P. Schuster, Ph.D., President, Global Collaborations, Inc.: Does carrying brands that Macy's does not carry help those moms move up to Macy's? That is a disconnect. Will items from Macy's be on deep discount at the same time they are available at Macy's? If so, why shop at Macy's?
Is there data that shows consumers shopping at the discount store of a retailer graduate to shopping at the parent store, or do the two stores attract different customers?
2. Macy's adapting to the times
Cathy Hotka, Principal, Cathy Hotka & Associates: The recession trained consumers to enjoy discount shopping, and Macy's is smart to get into the game.
3. Watch out, Laius
Ryan Mathews, Founder, CEO, Black Monk Consulting: I know there are regional differences but the Macy's near my house already looks like a discounter with nearly everything "on sale" and merchandise piled high in hope it will fly. So in my mind this really isn't a leap.
To me the real question here is, can you run a non-luxury goods department store without heavy discounting?
As for Backstage, the child may one day swallow the parent.
4. 'An area that is in high demand'
Tom Redd, Global Vice President, Strategic Communications, SAP Global Retail Business Unit: Macy's will hit a home run with the Millennial mom and many other shopper segments. Macy's has the engine in place for buying/creating brands that they do and do not carry in their stores. This element of their business is perfect for Backstage. They are fulfilling an area that is in high demand and I am confident that the Macy's process will be very distinct from the old T.J.Maxx or Rack models.
5. Little-to-no difference between Macy's and Backstage
Paula Rosenblum, Managing Partner, RSR Research: I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around this concept. As has already been pointed out, Macy's is already a discount destination and heavily promotional. I don't see what the lower-end Macy's will look like besides "Target" or fast-fashion.
6. Reminder of the past
Janet Dorenkott, VP & Co-owner, Relational Solutions, Inc.: These young moms grew up with stores like Forever 21 and Charlotte Rouse. I think it's wise for Macy's to explore this avenue. I'm not sure it will work, but it makes sense that it would.
7. Short-term success, long-term failure
Lee Peterson, EVP Brand, Strategy & Design, WD Partners: Short term and with their excellent P.R. machine firing on all cylinders, it'll be all good news. Long term, I wouldn't bet on it.
8. Off-price stores are changing shopping habits
Dick Seesel, Principal, Retailing In Focus LLC: Simply hoping that the "Backstage" customer will eventually shift her loyalties to a full-line Macy's store ignores the reality that fast fashion and off-price stores are changing shopping habits on a long-term basis. How does Macy's make its hundreds of mall anchor stores more appealing and relevant to the fastest growing (and eventually biggest spending) segment of the population?
9. Courting millennials with an appeal to ego
Karen S. Herman, Founder & CEO, Gustie Creative LLC: I see this concept structured so that the Millennial mom exploits her own unique shopping experiences at Macy's Backstage through Twitter and Instagram, making her the "star" of the shopping experience and sharing the journey with others.
This is completely on target with a few key traits of Millennials, mainly their egocentricism, fondness for sharing brand affinity through social media, and thriftiness. The fact that Macy's is relying on everday discounts to bring in customers, instead of promotional events, underscores this rationale.
Another insight here is research that indicates Millennials influence the purchasing decisions of, on average, four family members or friends.
Macy's has the potential here to have the target customer, the Millennial mom, bring in not only other shoppers of her generation, but also cross-generational shoppers influenced by her social messaging.
This is a smart concept and the key is to build brand affinity.
10. Attracting millennials' long-term loyalty
Michael Day, CMO, Retail, Teradata: Get young shoppers "in the door" off-price/down market, and grow the main-line brand with them as they grow economically. Makes sense and speaks directly to that "What is your Millennial strategy?" question facing retail today.