Macy’s, like other major department stores, has pared down its store footprint over the years. Former CEO Jeff Gennette early last year said the company had closed 170 locations since 2016 and was in the “final stretch” of shuttering stores. But at the beginning of this year, all of that changed. 

Macy’s announced five more anchor closures alongside a 3.5% workforce reduction in January. Then a month later, the department store said it would close 150 more locations over the next three years, with 50 closing in 2024 alone. One of the stores slated for closure this year was a fixture of the Ballston Quarter mall in Arlington, Virginia. Here’s a look at its final weeks in business.

Shoppers walk through a Macy's department store as sale signs hang from the ceiling.
Cara Salpini/Retail Dive

Macy’s Ballston location, now closed, sat on a popular street surrounded by a slew of dining options, including Ted’s Bulletin, Shake Shack and True Food Kitchen. The mall features a Regal movie theater, an action entertainment experience called “5 Wits,” a CVS, a Onelife Fitness and even more dining options.

A person stands with a sign advertising Macy's store closing sales.
Cara Salpini/Retail Dive

As the Macy’s prepared to shutter, the department store’s multiple entrances all showed easily visible store closing signs. People advertising the closeout sales also stood on nearby street corners for hours at a time, holding signs detailing the depth of discounts, which spanned all three floors at first and slowly condensed as inventory dwindled. 

Macy's was careful to specify in stores that only the Ballston location was closing. Now, though, dozens more will shutter in the year ahead as the department store raises the bar on go-forward locations. CEO Tony Spring, who took over in February, told analysts later that month that even cash-positive stores will be closed if they’re underperforming.

A Macy's department store with the sign removed.
Cara Salpini/Retail Dive

In March, the executive told an audience at Shoptalk that Macy’s simply has “too many locations that were built for a different era” and said the company had “no choice” but to close stores in order to thrive. Spring added that the stores slated for closure in the next three years make up 25% of the department store’s square footage but represent less than 10% of its sales.

The end goal is a fleet of 350 core Macy’s stores, with continued investment in some of the department store’s smaller formats. Spring said in February that Macy’s plans to open 30 more small formats in the next two years, including 12 this year.

Meanwhile, many of its traditional department store formats will begin winding down.

As the Macy’s in Ballston shuttered, some displays were well-stocked, while others were already sparsely filled just a week after announcing the closure. Many racks were left empty as product was purchased, even as boxes of inventory cluttered the selling floor. In certain areas, extra stock usually stored in a back room was sitting out in boxes on wood pallets or stacked up on metal shelving units.

A display of toys for sale in front of boxes of stacked merchandise.
Cara Salpini/Retail Dive

Most employees were either manning cash registers or unloading inventory onto shelves. All sales at the store were final as of Jan. 22, and it was accepting returns up until Feb. 20. A few more employees were stationed behind some of the department store’s beauty and jewelry kiosks.

While jewelry was heavily discounted, beauty appeared to be one of the only areas Macy’s wasn’t compromising on. The retailer offered no sales on any of its fragrances and also said many cosmetics products were excluded from the closing sale. Macy’s “Last Act” merchandise, which is already discounted, was also not on further promotion.

Fragrances in a glass display, with one shelf sliding down at an angle.
Cara Salpini/Retail Dive

Other deals at various points included 20% off housewares, 40% off men’s suits and separates and 25% off outerwear, including from brands like Ralph Lauren. Luggage, toys, kids apparel, pillows, linens and small kitchen accessories were also up for grabs at discounted rates.

The Macy’s at Ballston Quarter included a whole floor dedicated to furniture and mattresses, as well as a wide rug selection, all of which were meaningfully discounted during the store closing sale. Sofas, armchairs, mattresses, coffee tables, nightstands and other items all featured steep discounts, sometimes hundreds of dollars off their original price. Sign wielders advertising the closing store early on touted 60% off area rugs, and some mattresses were 30% off.

As the department store required less space, store floors were left empty or stacked with unneeded fixtures like empty shelves, mannequins and tables. Dollies for carting around merchandise were left unmanned. Some merchandise display tables, as well as various pieces of decor, were up for sale or slated to be sent to other Macy’s stores, including a box dedicated to letters for Santa Claus. 

A stack of empty shelving units, product displays and mannequins in a Macy's store.
Cara Salpini/Retail Dive

In the weeks since Macy’s announced its new slate of closures, analysts have expressed surprise at the magnitude of the pullback, speculated whether the retailer is closing enough stores and taken a look at who could benefit most from the iconic department store’s exit from certain markets. On that last question, off-price is at least part of the answer.

Analysts with Jefferies and Earnest Analytics recently both predicted that off-price retailers, including those run by TJX, would benefit most from the department store’s closures. Jefferies noted “significant” customer and real estate overlap between Macy’s and TJX, translating to “a few billions of dollars of share gain opportunity” over the next few years. No matter who gains from the closures, one thing is clear to Macy’s: it needs to evolve.

“Of course, we’re very sensitive to the impact a Macy’s closure has on our colleagues, our customers, our vendors and the local community,” Spring said in March. “But this is a critical step as we move forward. This isn’t about shrinking. It’s about improving historically, to make sure that we’re giving people the opportunity to shop the way they want.”


Visuals Editor Shaun Lucas contributed to this story.