Earlier this week, WWD reported that Richard Baker, governor and executive chairman of Hudson’s Bay Co., was eyeing Macy’s Inc. and Neiman Marcus Group, according to sources. But for several business-to-business vendors and consultants, the move, while not surprising, raises some critical questions.
Jennifer Sherman, senior vice president of product and strategy at Kibo, said from the perspective of Hudson’s Bay, “their brands do best at catering to a high-end market so [an acquisition of Macy’s] could be about the company trying to appeal to the masses more and not bank exclusively on their luxury segment.”
For her part, Sherman said further department store consolidation reflects a much larger issue at retail. Sherman said a deal for Macy’s or Neiman Marcus “could be particularly important given how luxury is struggling in our most cost-sensitive world. But the potential acquisition is indicative of a much larger problem that so many traditional retailers are facing — how to stay ahead of consumer expectations by shoring up their digital channels and providing a differentiated brick-and-mortar experience.”
Sherman speculated that if a deal with Macy’s occurred, “the conversation will quickly turn to what Hudson’s Bay will do with all of this real estate, inventory and a struggling brand.” She said re-imagining Macy’s omnichannel approach would be a great first step.
“They must evolve the [Macy’s] brand from their current almost bargain-basement feel with harried and undereducated staff to an omnichannel experience center,” Sherman explained. “This means better equipping their sales force with selling tools, product information and simple customer delivery like in-store pickup programs, creating engaging and interactive store experiences and looking at how to refresh and personalize the shopping experience online, on the phone — something Macy’s has traditionally struggled to get right — and in the store.”
Sherman said loyalty for this “159-year-old retail veteran” has been wavering, but “we know that today’s consumer loves innovation, and with the right personalization and customer influence strategy in place, Macy’s and Hudson’s Bay can right the ship, energize their customer base and compete at the level with even the most agile of e-commerce retailers.”
Stuart Aldridge, principal at e-commerce, retail and wholesale consulting firm Columbus Consulting, was a little more pragmatic. Aldridge said it’s not surprising to see more consolidation in the department store sector “as companies continue to battle Amazon for the mid-market consumer. An acquisition makes sense in the short term and alleviates pressure from investors for continued growth in value, but the real question is does this move the needle in the company’s ability to re-engage that core consumer in the longer term?”
Aldridge went on to note that Hudson’s Bay “continues to show positive signs in their assortments through the Hudson’s Bay Company premium collection, as well as capital investments in store renovations.” But he quickly said it would be difficult to replicate at Macy’s. “The good news is, Hudson’s Bay is not new to the acquisitions and mergers arena,” he said. “It could be just the stimulus Macy’s needs.”
Adrien Nussenbaum, U.S. chief executive officer and co-founder of marketplace platform provider Mirakl, described a takeover of Macy’s as a “self-destructive move” amid the overall health of the department sector as consumer shifts their spending to other venues including Amazon.
“As Amazon has demonstrated over and over, the online marketplace meets customers’ expectations for choice, price and convenience, while providing retailers the profits necessary to grow and innovate and stay competitive,” he added.