Monday, March 3, 2008

L.S. Macy's & Co.

Macy's apparently has failed at marketing itself as a store with one big national market, and is trying to be more regional -- in part because the people who shopped at Macy's when it was Macy's were used to Macy's, but the people who shopped at L.S. Ayres or Famous-Barr were used to a different type of store and seem to want it back. In many of the markets that were Macyized, there was Macy's and there was a May Co. or Federated store and each had its customers; now, there is only Macy's.

Here's a conundrum that newspapers and department stores share: To succeed with newer customers and be attractive to them, one has to change to reflect their preferences. But doing so means irritating your long-time customers. You can't just depend on your long-time customers, because they will die off. But you have to find the customers you can get and not just look for the customers you want. (See Bloomingdale's.)

Macy's tried to find the customers it wanted. But as an official now notes: "Some stores sell more size 12s than other stores. Some colors appeal to certain stores' shoppers more than others. We want to get the mix just right." (There are lots of ways to read that, but one way is: "Some of our stores' customers aren't as sophisticated or trendy as we wanted all of our customers to be." And he adds, sotto voce: "Or thin.")

The article also notes: "It is clear from all that we know that the greater you can match merchandise to local customers' tastes, the better off you are," said Richard Feinberg, a retail professor at Purdue University.

Give the lady what she wants!

Give the reader what she wants!


Gerri Berendzen said...

I'm just catching up with the blog after being sick and I wanted to comment on this post, even though you have newer ones.

This reminds me of when I worked for the Suburban Journals in St. Louis. The large suburban weekly chain was owned by two St. Louisans, but after I was there a few years, Ralph Ingersol came in and bought it. His experience, at the time was East Coast suburban newsapers (and junk bonds, but that's a different story.)

Anyway, the first thing he did was make a lot of content changes that took the papers away from the community news, fish fries, school board coverage model and moved them more toward entertainment and style, with a mix of breaking news. (At one time, I worked with a corral of up to 55 stringers who would cover 70-plus board meetings a week. Fire boards, sewer district boards ... boards the dailies in St. Louis couldn't cover, but to which people paid taxes nonetheless.)

Right away a group of editors told Ingersol's imported news director that the East Coast model wouldn't work. People read the Journals because they wanted to know what their school board was doing and where the trivia nights and spaghetti dinners were being held.

That didn't stop the change, which did cut into readership. Before the year was out, we were resuming some of the things that had previously made the Suburban Journals very profitable.

Same with Macy's. I know a lot of people in St. Louis who wish Famous-Barr was back. The idea that a national chain can carry the same products in every store seems somewhat ill-conceived to me. That's why food chains are usually regional -- food choices differ from region to region.

And I think people don't want the same thing from their print paper as their Web paper -- at least at the type of community newspaper where I am employed. The number one thing my copy desk gets calls about is leaving Junior's name off the Dean's List story. Moms still want to cut that out and put it in a scrapboosk.
On the Web, people like to take polls and see slideshows and leave comments.
So it seems like the print and online products can work in tandem.

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