At Macy’s, the stores are changing, many are closing, digital revenues are growing, and catering to a nation of consumers with changing attitudes on how they want to spend their money and time is getting increasingly complicated. In his interview at the Herald Square corporate office, Jeff Gennette discussed the challenges, opportunities and evolving stories at Macy’s. Below, excerpts from the conversation.

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Jeffrey Gennette15 year anniversary of the Pink Pony Fund at Macy's, New York City, America - 29 Sep 2015

Jeffrey Gennette is taking the reins as ceo of Macy’s.  Leandro J./BFA/REX/Shutterstock

On the store fleet: “It’s not a one-size-fits-all comment. Herald Square is a very rich experience. We have been investing in our stores in the top regional centers and our customers are telling us they see it, they appreciate it. We also got stores in secondary malls where we are playing with what is the proper level of experience. Do they need to be smaller? Do they need more curated assortments? What kind of capital should we spend there that is going to be noticed by the customers? At the end of the day, not all of our stores are the same, and they are going to require different levels of investment. But it’s a balancing act because you are going to continue to see us focus on digital. We are leaders there….We know that in our stores we need to lift the experience, and we are going to do it in the proper ways in the proper locations. We also have been clear that there are some stores we are not going to bring along with us. We have been one of the leaders about shedding locations that are not strategic.”

On the customer base: “We have this file of more than 40 million active customers, and the top 10 percent account for half of our business and they are shopping with us above last year’s levels. They like what we are doing. It’s the rest of the customers, or the new customers we want to bring to the brand, that we are also working on.”

The Apple store at Macy's Herald Square in Manhattan.

The Apple store at Macy’s Herald Square in Manhattan.  Barry Fidnick

On service: “We look at our service all the time and our service is improving. We put a big emphasis on it. It’s not perfect. We still have doors with work to do, but there are always great sales associates in every one of these buildings that are great models for every new one that comes in. One of our best kept secrets is our personal shopping. We call it ‘My Stylists.’ Many of our customers use that. It’s a complementary service.”

On management structure: “Right now it is very flat. I am the president and the ceo, so I have a group of direct reports that is broad. You can take a lot of direct reports if you are clear in your direction and you are not micromanaging somebody in their job.”

On food and food halls: “Food halls make sense where you’ve got a lot of traffic, in flagship stores. But there are huge opportunities with rest and refresh in general….There is an opportunity to take food and beverage to a lot more doors.”

On acquisitions: “We are always open. It’s why we have this small team looking at what’s new, what’s next. There are many places Macy’s could transact outside of our boundaries in digital and in our stores. There are new markets, new categories, new experiences. If people have ideas, we are always open to hearing them; we sift through them [and] we will be aggressive about that. We are looking outward.”

The Macy’s store in San Francisco. 

On technology, innovation and the Macy’s app: “Our mobile app was just ranked number-one ahead of Amazon, ahead of Best Buy. When you look at our lean team in San Francisco that created that through the beginning of 2016, we rolled that out and now it is fully implemented. The entire app changed in a short period of time. That was moving fast. It is really a good app, the speed of it, its usability, it’s fun. The customer has everything they need in their hand with how they navigate a building. So making all things within the building coordinate with the app is where we are going, through experiments, so it’s an information and navigation guide to the store. There are other technologies that we want to scale, like checkout — checkout from your mobile device, and creating a super area with basically one central cash wrap on a floor with associates roving with multiple devices ready to check out customers….What we are really focused on is technology we can scale.”

On meeting Ralph Lauren: “After I moved to New York, Ralph invited me to lunch. I was both excited and nervous to meet him, as you can imagine. Over lunch, it became clear that he knew a lot about me. He knew about my career at Macy’s, about the work I’d done with his team. I was both surprised that he noticed and amazed by the level of detail. That lunch was the first in many great encounters I’ve had with Ralph, and he’s been an inspiration to me. On that day and in later interactions with him, I found Ralph willing to share his insights and his creativity. He is open about when his company faced difficult times and how he persevered. For an incredibly gentle man, he has a fierce competitive spirit.”

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