Macy's will debut its first Macy's Backstage store in the Pittsburgh area, located within its Monroeville store.
Steve Mickel, left, and Lance Heydorn hang signs inside Macy’s first Backstage store in the Pittsburgh area, located within its store at Monroeville Mall.
By Stephanie Ritenbaugh / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
While the shelves were bare, workers at Monroeville Mall were busy securing floor tiles, hauling light fixtures and hanging signs for Macy’s new outlet store — a first for the region.
Shoes, bags, apparel and home decor will start lining shelves later this week in preparation for the opening of Macy’s Backstage, The Outlet Store, on Labor Day weekend.
Backstage — the name takes a cue from the chain’s flagship store at Herald Square and Broadway in New York — will be housed on the first floor of the mall’s existing Macy’s location. It will carve out about 25,000 square feet and have its own entrance.
Macy’s opened the first six Backstage off-price stores in New York City in 2015. By the end of 2016, the Cincinnati-based company expects to have about 22 Macy’s Backstage locations, mostly inside existing department stores.
As shopping habits change — traffic at malls has dropped and more folks opt for a virtual shopping experience for retail therapy — traditional stores have had to find creative ways to lure shoppers.
In this environment, discount retailers have fared better than others.
“Off-price has been a very healthy subsector of retail — stores like TJ Maxx, Ross and Burlington,” said Christina Boni, vice president, senior analyst for Moody’s Investors Services. “Many others, like Macy’s, have looked to attract that customer.
“Backstage is an opportunity for Macy’s,” said Ms. Boni. “But given the size of Macy’s, it will take time to gain some critical mass.”
Macy’s Backstage is a separate entity from the full-line Macy’s stores and clearance sections, dubbed Last Act.
For one thing, Backstage will have its own buying team, so it will feature different items than Macy’s, said spokeswoman Andrea Schwartz.
Where Last Act carries marked-down items in the traditional Macy’s store, Backstage will look ahead to the upcoming season.
“Backstage also will quickly rotate items while Macy’s may have eight weeks of a product in store,” Ms. Schwartz said.
“It will be about the thrill of the hunt,” said Mark Ionadi, Macy’s Monroeville vice president store manager.
The Backstage stores are launching as the nation’s largest department store chain is reevaluating its portfolio. Macy’s recently announced it would close 100 full-line stores. Specific locations haven’t yet been identified.
“This country is over-stored given evolving customer shopping habits,” said Karen Hoguet, CFO, on the company’s second quarter conference call on Aug. 11.
Moody’s applauded that decision.
“Although the store closures will reduce Macy’s full-line footprint by almost 15 percent and reduce sales ultimately by an approximately $1 billion annually... we anticipate significant strategic benefit,” Moody’s analysts said in a research note on Aug. 11.
Department stores remain “under intense pressure” to address off-price and online retailers taking a greater market share of apparel, the firm said. “We view the decision to close these stores based on not only their economic performance but their long-term strategic value as a critical step toward the store optimization required to maximize its growth as an omni-channel retailer.”
There are about 734 Macy’s stores in 45 states, Washington, D.C, Puerto Rico and Guam.
Ms. Schwartz noted the opening at Monroeville Mall is timed to take advantage of the back-to-school shopping season and the approaching holidays.
One perk: Backstage will feature a “Juice Bar” to allow shoppers to recharge devices for free.
Stephanie Ritenbaugh: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-4910.
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