Byline: David Moin

NEW YORK — Michael Steinberg, who came out of retirement from the May Co. about seven years ago to revitalize Macy’s West, is retiring in January, it was learned Thursday.
Steinberg, chairman and chief executive of the San Francisco-based Macy’s West division of Federated Department Stores Inc., is 71. He declined to comment.
He is considered among the industry’s most respected merchants, particularly for his accomplishments at Macy’s West, which he guided through a series of mergers, consolidations, regional economic upheavals and the ravages of El Nino. Under his leadership, the chain got back on track and developed a strong flair for fashion, after first falling into disarray under the weight of the 1992 bankruptcy of its parent R.H. Macy & Co. and the troubled California economy from the early to the mid-Nineties.
At the time Macy’s filed Chapter 11, Edward Finkelstein was chairman and ceo of the corporation and his son Daniel was running Macy’s West. The Finkelsteins left the business a few months after the filing, and Myron Ullman 3rd, the new Macy’s chairman and ceo, convinced Steinberg to get back into retailing and run Macy’s West.
At Macy’s, Steinberg has pulled off a great balancing act. Despite having a heavy promotional posture, like other divisions of Federated Department Stores, Macy’s West manages to still project a more upscale image than department store competitors. It also sells a higher proportion of better and more fashionable goods and is said to have a highly talented fashion office. Prior to Macy’s West, Steinberg ran the Foley’s division of May Co. during turbulent times. Foley’s was long part of Federated Department Stores, until it was sold to May Co. during Federated’s Campeau regime. Steinberg, of South African origin, spent his early days in retail at the former Abraham & Straus chain.
In an interview several years ago, Steinberg called Foleys “a great learning experience.” For the past two years, Macy’s East and Macy’s West have experienced comparable growth rates, both gaining market share and margin, though Macy’s East is more promotional due to the more competitive East Coast.
According to one of Steinberg’s former co-workers, “Michael has a flair for merchandising and fashion development. He brought stability, sanity and order to Macy’s and put together a top-flight organization.
He has a passion for the product and the merchandising, and it’s infectious to people working around him.
“He’s the youngest 71-year-old you will ever meet.”
Sources said that Federated is considering several candidates to succeed Steinberg. But one name that keeps popping up is Janet Grove, chairman of Federated Merchandising Group, based in New York.