Macy’s has tapped Israeli designer Kobi Halperin for a limited-time fashion collection that includes blouses, sweaters, dresses, jackets, jumpsuits, pants and more, according to a company press release.
The collection is available now through the department store’s mobile app and website, and it will be available Aug. 15 at 149 Macy’s stores, the company said.
Macy’s has been making moves recently that suggest a pivot toward discount retailing, like expanding its off-price Backstage unit to stand-alone stores and within full-line stores, as well as changing its shoe-sales approach to self-service shelving. The Kobi collection, however, is a step in the opposite direction, with the line ranging in price from $79 to $299.
Along with a correction to its massive U.S. physical store footprint (which involves shuttering at least 100 stores), Macy's — under new President and CEO Jeff Gennette — is aiming to foster the treasure-hunt mentality that has stoked the success of off-price retailers like T.J. Maxx.
It’s not clear whether these efforts have legs yet. Howard Davidowitz, chairman of New York City-based retail consulting and investment banking firm Davidowitz & Associates, said Gennette needs some space and time. "They’re a decade behind in getting into off-price — a decade — they just started," he told Retail Dive. "They’re also going about it differently, they’re going to make it part of their stores. That may work, that may not work. The new guy is very muddled, but he wouldn’t be in this job if he wasn’t talented. I say give him time."
Still, GlobalData Retail managing director Neil Saunders warns that their research finds that having off-price assortments inside Macy's stores is cannibalizing full-line sales. "As much as we can see the logic for this from the perspective of trying to make space more productive, we believe the strategy will ultimately fall short," he said in May. "It also sends confusing messages to the customer about the Macy's brand. There is no doubt that Backstage is a good concept and one that Macy's should pursue, but we believe it is better suited to stand-alone locations in units where rents are cheaper."
That strategy is closer to the off-price success experienced by Nordstrom, whose longstanding Rack stores are found in shopping areas and cities apart from the flagship fleet, although even that retailer experiences sales leaks to off-price operations.
The collection from Kobi Halperin may be a way to balance its pricing scheme as Macy's re-charges its style chops. The small-batch fashion approach — innovated by Target years ago — in which retailers tap high-end designers for the mass market, allows apparel retailers to bump up prices (at least for a limited time, for a limited collection, to a limited extent).