Chicago Feminist Rant on Why Macy's is in Trouble

Macy's on State Street in Chicago

Macy’s announced this week that it’s closing 68 stores around the country and selling its flagship Minneapolis store to an investment firm that has a large presence in Chicago.

The State Street store, aka, Forever Marshall Field’s, is safe for now, but the announcements have put its fate in question.

I am, begrudgingly, a frequent Macy’s shopper. I shop small, local and woman-owned when I can, but sometimes, a girl just needs a coffeepot. And boom! Like magic, the 1,000th Macy’s coupon/sales circular of the week arrives, and it’s off I go.

It is a marriage of convenience, rarely love.

As a learned Macy’s observer, I have just one reaction to the chain’s troubles: No kidding. And while I may have spent the first few years stubbornly calling it Marshall Field’s, I have now earned my disdain for Macy’s.

Why? I’ll tell you why:

“Where Do They Keep All the Cute Clothes?”

Many moons ago, I was wandering through the Macy’s at Water Tower when one of my gay male companions asked lazily — and loudly — “Where do they keep all the cute clothes?” Ouch. It’s a good question, girl. I’ve gotten some great finds at Macy’s, don’t get me wrong, but there are an equal number of excursions where I walked out empty-handed.

There Isn’t Enough Booze

If you’re providing an IRL shopping experience to compete with the convenience of shopping online, you gotta bring it, meaning you need to provide a capital-E Experience. A Seattle-based department store that I shall not name here (cough, Nordstrom) is astonishingly good at this. Shopping at Nordstrom rocks. To a store, they are lovely, they are clean, they have concierges who will hold your packages, and there are BARS. Nice bars. Sometimes right off the dress department. With snacks.

And, perhaps most importantly, they have things you want to buy. If you’re willing to dig a little, you can even find some gems on sale.

Shopping at Macy’s sometimes feels like walking through a decadent and well-perfumed funeral for someone that nobody really liked very much. The State Street store has held on to its old world opulent beauty, but there are some departments where you can fire a cannon and not hit anyone. Including a sales associate (more on that later). On the contrary, on busy days, like during prom/wedding season, the dressing rooms are a disaster of discards. Not lovely, not clean, no bar.

Help! I Need Somebody. Not Just Anybody

If you are lucky enough to locate something you want to purchase at Macy’s, good luck finding an associate to ring you up. Those folks standing on the first floor hawking perfume samples? In my experience, a good number of them aren’t Macy’s employees and can’t process transactions. (Or they can, and they just don’t like me.)

Oh, you want to try on that pair of shoes in your size? Great. Go put a penny in your checking account, and by the time you flag down an associate, your wait will have paid for your shoes. Awesome, right?

Get out the Way

And Christmas? A crowded chaos of shoppers and gawkers that you, with coupons in hand, will think you can navigate easily. After bumping into the third person who has come to a dead stop at the end of an escalator to a) look at the ceiling; b) take a picture of Frango mints; or c) find their own coupons, your Christmas spirit will have gone the way of Field’s.

The Wine Department

Wait, the wine department is actually on point, though. I’m not gonna lie. And I’m not going to tell you where it is because I don’t want you all overwhelming the sweet wine goddess who works there.

In short, I hope all of this upheaval gives Macy’s the boost it needs to turn this no-fun funeral around. Or else I better stock up on coffeepots.

(Photo credit: Don’t judge the quality, my fingers were frozen.)

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Karen Hawkins is a recovering mainstream media reporter who wants to thank her former boss for naming the online magazine she's always wanted to start when he called her “Rebellious” for taking too many weekends off. When she isn't instigating a media Rebellion, she's thanking her lucky starlets she gets to do whatever she wants on weekends.

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