Remember back in the day when shopping at an off-price department store meant there was a good chance you would end up weighing the pros and cons of buying a shirt with mismatched sleeve lengths, a missing button or a collar that looked like it had been sewn on by a middle-school student having a bad day in home economics class?
That’s not the case these days, as off-price chains such as TJ Maxx, Burlington and Marshalls are growing, spurred by customer demand for their high-quality, sometimes name-brand goods, which require no “adjustments” at home.
Now Macy's is planning to get a bigger slice of the off-price market by opening 50 more Macy’s Backstage outlets this year inside existing Macy’s stores, including in Roosevelt Field mall in Garden City and Smith Haven Mall in Lake Grove this spring.
Macy’s Backstage sells name-brand clothing, shoes, accessories, housewares and makeup at 20 percent to 80 percent below traditional department store prices, Cincinnati-based Macy’s Inc. said.
“Backstage’s focus on value and newness guarantees that with each visit shoppers will find an amazingly priced assortment of recognizable brands and trends. Frequent deliveries ensure there is always a new reason to come in and shop,” Michelle Israel, Macy’s senior vice president of off price, said in a statement Tuesday.
Macy’s launched the Backstage concept in 2015 and had 55 locations as of April 2018.
There are now 172, all but seven of which are inside Macy’s stores.
On Long Island, the company has four Macy’s Backstage locations — inside Macy’s stores in Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream and Westfield Sunrise Mall in Massapequa, and two separate stores, in the Melville Mall and in the Lake Success Shopping Center in New Hyde Park.
The Backstage in Roosevelt Field, set to open April 13, will be on the first floor and occupy 14,900 square feet, or 3 percent, of that Macy’s location's 461,301 square feet, the retailer said.
The Backstage at the Macy’s in Smith Haven Mall is slated to open in mid-May, but the retailer is not sharing details about the size yet.
As U.S. department stores struggle — with many locations closing — amid competition from online retailers and big-box stores, off-price chains are seeing growth and raising the bar.
“Companies such as [TJ Maxx and Marshalls owner] TJX and Burlington in off-price and Five Below and Dollar General in the dollar segment are driving up standards in the discount sector, in turn drawing in more shoppers and more spending from the increasingly pressured midmarket,” said John Mercer, senior analyst at Coresight Research Inc., a Manhattan retail analysis provider.
On average, Macy's stores with Backstage locations have 5 percent more in sales than those that do not, the chain said.
But companywide sales for 2018, $25 billion, were basically flat compared to sales in 2017.
Macy’s Inc. operates about 680 department stores under the nameplates Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s, compared with 840 stores five years ago.
Macy’s has too much space in some of its stores, which is one reason for its Backstage concept, said Neil Saunders, managing director of retail at GlobalData, a Manhattan market research firm.
Also, “Macy’s has a lot of excess apparel inventory that it needs to offload. It could do this by discounting in the mainstream part of the store, but that devalues the proposition, so it has opted to create an off-price concept instead,” he said.
Retail Roundup is a column about major retail news on Long Island — store openings, closings, expansions, acquisitions, etc. — that is published online and in the Monday paper. To read more of these columns, click here. If you have news to share, please send an email to Newsday reporter Tory N. Parrish at email@example.com.