Macy’s has never quite seemed to understand the Mall of America—even though it is an original anchor. You’d expect the largest U.S. department store chain to treat the largest mall in America as a flagship location—a Herald Square of the North, if you will. Instead, it’s always felt mediocre, even for a Macy’s.
That same mistake led Macy’s Inc. to close its under-performing Bloomingdale’s store at MOA in 2012. They said MOA shoppers were not Bloomingdale’s-level shoppers. But Bloomingdale’s shoppers didn’t find the luxury brands or experience that they expected at the MOA store. Same goes for Macy’s—the MOA store does not offer Macy’s top-tier brands, or more importantly, top-tier experience. The store’s full-service restaurant (remember Wolfgang Puck, anyone?) closed ages ago. There isn’t even a fast-casual option or a coffee bar like many other Macy’s locations. And when the mall's public restrooms offer a superior experience to those within the department store, there’s a problem.
Finally, Macy’s MOA is getting some corporate love as the only Twin Cities store included in Macy’s Growth50 Initiative—a $200 million investment to upgrade the physical space and customer experience at 50 stores across the country. With the updates nearly finished, Macy’s MOA will host a grand re-opening on Nov. 17 complete with prizes and a hot dog cart.
“We should be a flagship store,” says store manager Michelle Squires, who transferred from Southdale about a year ago and has fought hard for sorely needed improvements.
Macy’s seems more interested in growing its outlet business (Backstage is now located on the third floor at MOA) than infusing the store with the magic one might expect of a true flagship. But at least they’re finally paying attention.
Many of the improvements are cosmetic. New flooring and carpets have been installed throughout the three-level store. Some walls were removed for better flow. New LED lighting is brighter—especially noticeable in the men’s department, which long felt cave-like. The bathrooms have been remodeled, which Squires mentions more than once on our store tour. “We heard about those bathrooms a lot,” she says.
The children’s department moved to the first floor where it has more space as well as a new children’s shoe department—a category Macy’s is bringing back after eliminating it several years ago. On the third floor, Macy’s is adding a mattress and furniture department—another throwback to the department store of yesteryear. This time around, it’s a showroom where all merchandise can be ordered for direct shipping. Squires says staff will be trained for the furniture business to know, among other things, what fabrics and colors are available beyond what’s in store. Customers will be able to plug room measurements into a computer to see how sofas and chairs might fit into their space at home.
Technology in the shoe department has been updated to speed up the try and buy process. (Photos by Allison Kaplan)
Across the white tile hallway from furniture is a first for Macy’s nationwide: a Potbelly sandwich shop, which will open at the MOA store in December. Welcome to the post-Marketplace era. Squires says customers want a spot where they can get a bite to eat without leaving the store. Located at Macy’s third floor mall entrance, Potbelly seating will spill into the mall court. “It fits well with the other restaurants on the third floor,” Squires says.
And fitting the mall—rather than trying to be like other stores—is Squires main goal. “We’re delivering what the Mall of America customer wants,” she says.
Apparently, that’s moderate dress up clothes. Macy’s MOA does big business in social occasion dressing, Squires says, so the selection has been expanded for women, men, and children. Activewear is another amped up category. The beauty department added 20 new brands, including Yves Saint Laurent and Laura Geller, along with more open shelving for grab and go selections.
Speaking of grab and go—merchandise throughout the store is now tagged with a code that shoppers can scan with their Macy’s app to pay without ever interacting with a sales associate. It takes some getting used to (or it should, anyway!), but then, you’ll still need to find a staff member to remove the security tag and bag your purchases.
There are fewer checkout counters, but they’ve been moved to more visible locations (which doesn’t guarantee an associate will be there when you need them, but at least you’ll know where to look). Not all associates are assigned to ring sales, however. “Style advisors” will be on hand near select fitting rooms (which have also been upgraded) to offer fashion advice and make suggestions. That’s in addition to personal shoppers, who are also getting new quarters on the second floor.
Updated technology in the shoe department will expedite the process of a sales associate checking stock levels and dispatching runners to bring styles out to customers. The At Your Service desk by the first floor parking lot entrance is set up for quick pick up of online orders.
As part of the Growth50, Macy’s MOA is also getting money for more store events and community service projects.
Macy’s execs will study how these updates are received at MOA and the other Growth50 stores to refine the next wave of store remodels for 2019.