By  on March 2, 1994

SAN FRANCISCO -- Michael Steinberg might be a shy man, but the new chairman and chief executive officer of Macy's West worked the room like a pro during a party celebrating the completion of the Impulse boutique here in the Union Square flagship.

There was reason for his enthusiasm. He feels that Impulse, the contemporary area, is a sure bet to help boost volume for the Macy's West/Bullock's division he was tapped to head last July. It also has two of Steinberg's favorite components: reasonably priced contemporary apparel and a preponderance of California designers.

The department illustrates the Steinberg philosophy: Study and understand the market, then go after it. In this case, the target was the customer who prefers well-priced casual styles. Steinberg believed this business could grow substantially.

Impulse was moved from a low-profile, fourth-floor position to its Union Square ground-level location with a separate entrance late last year. It doubled in size to 8,000 square feet and took over space formerly filled by A/X Armani Exchange and some designer apparel. A/X Armani's departure from Macy's was billed by the two parties as a mutual decision, but sources said at the time that sales in the A/X shop had not lived up to expectations.

According to reports, volume has doubled since Impulse moved to the main floor. Sources say it has been ringing up as much as $20,000 in sales each day for an annual volume of about $4.8 million.

The Impulse shop is light and airy, with brick walls painted white and defined areas for different vendors such as Laundry, Laundry by Shelli Segal, Susie Tompkins, and Freewear by Jonathan Hoenscheidt. Prices range from $88 to $138 for dresses, $78 to $128 for pants, $88 to $128 for tunics, and $128 to $198 for jackets.

Leon Max, the Los Angeles-based sportswear designer whose Max Studio line is the top vendor in Impulse, said at the opening he was surprised at Macy's commitment to the area, which features dresses starting at $88.

"No one else on the square has dresses at this price in this nice an environment," Max said. "Usually, it's in a tiny area squeezed in the back."Steinberg's background includes eight years at Bullock's in Los Angeles where he rose to vice president and general merchandise manager. From 1989 to 1992, he was president and chief executive officer at Foley's, the Houston-based division of May Department Stores Co.

While his experience at Bullock's appeared to make Steinberg a good match for the Macy job, few observers could predict where he would take the $2.5 billion, 52-store division when he was chosen to head it last summer.

And given the Chapter 11 status of its parent com

pany, R.H. Macy & Co., there were limited funds with which to institute costly changes or aggressive plans for expansion.

But Steinberg said, "We haven't radically changed direction. It was absolutely not a question of a company in disarray. It was a company that functioned well, had good leadership, and just needed a new management team to decide on priorities. It's as simple as that."

Some of those priorities, in addition to expanding contemporary, include increasing the moderate, junior and men's businesses. Steinberg characterized the move to build moderate as a return to a past strength rather than charting a new future.

"It's simplistic to say we're going after the moderate market to the exclusion of something else," he said. "I think there are markets that historically we have walked away from that we shouldn't have.

"I lived in Los Angeles for 10 years, and to say there's no moderate market for Bullock's stores is ridiculous. The question is how big and what role our company should play in developing that business."

The Macy's ceo also said that while the dress business has been difficult, it will not be de-emphasized.

"Our challenge now," Steinberg said, "is to get this company focused on what it has to do on a day-to-day basis."

load comments
blog comments powered by Disqus