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Poll Results On Downtown Macy’s

June 5, 2013 Downtown, Economy, Retail 28 Comments

Just over half (50.77%) the readers who voted in the poll last week felt the closing of the downtown Macy’s will have a negative/very negative affect on downtown. Here are the results:

Q: How will Macy’s closing their downtown location affect downtown St. Louis in the long-term?

  1. Negatively 47 [36.15%]
  2. Neutral 43 [33.08%]
  3. Very negatively 19 [14.62%]
  4. Positively 11 [8.46%]
  5. Unsure/No Answer 6 [4.62%]
  6. Very positively 4 [3.08%]

Here’s my take (not spin): I specifically included “in the long-term” in the question because I think the short-term effect will be negative, but will be neutral in the long-term. How long is long-term? I’d say 8-10 years, in this case.

Cities/neighborhoods are resilient places, provided they don’t pass a tipping point. For many of us that live downtown, Macy’s just wasn’t that important. I personally bought more from Macys.com than in the Macy’s store. When Macy’s closed both restaurants in the consolidation to 3 floors a couple of years ago I no longer had a reason to visit.    Previously I’d attend a monthly lunch in the St. Louis Room, then browse the kitchenware section afterwards, often making a purchase.

On the positive side I see the void as opening up the market so another retailer might consider a new store. The new urban CityTarget format comes to mind:

The Chicago store is housed in a 113-year old historical landmark constructed by architect Louis Sullivan in the heart of the city at the corner of State and Madison Streets. Nearby retailers include H&M, Forever 21, Office Depot, Nordstrom Rack, Sears and T.J. Maxx.

CityTarget stores are more expensive to operate and build, as they are housed in pre-existing spaces, Schindele said. In Chicago, for example, Target had to rip out old floors and strip dozens of coats of paint off of columns to give the store the CityTarget look.

CityTarget shelves are bright white rather than almond-colored. Mannequins, tested in one Target store, and brushed silver racks are used to display clothing. In a first for the Target chain, music plays in the Chicago and Seattle locations. (Huffington Post)

CityTarget stores are also located in Seattle, Los Angeles (2), San Francisco. Additional CityTarget locations are planned for Boston & Portland OR,  with additional stores in LA and SF.

Last month, in a different conference call, Target chief financial officer John Mulligan said the company was “very excited” about the CityTarget concept.

Target plans to open three more this year, Mulligan said. “And then, we’ve said all along, we’ll pause,” Mulligan said. “We’re pretty thoughtful about things like this. So we’re going to pause in 2014 and evaluate where we are at.” (Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal)

So even if Target can be interested it’ll be a while before it would happen. Other retailers might see an opportunity in the meantime.

— Steve Patterson


Currently there are "28 comments" on this Article:

  1. JZ71 says:

    If City Target is off the table, maybe Family Dollar will be interested in the vacant space . . . .

    • I would welcome a Family Dollar store in an existing space downtown.

    • Scott Jones says:


    • mrh1027 says:

      I’m not willing to give up on CityTarget even if they’re taking a break from expansion. To me it’s the most logical replacement for Macy’s, and it would even fit in well within the first level of the Railway Exchange in my opinion. I know Target did a bang-up job with the main level of the former Carson Pirie Scott flagship on State Street in Chicago, so I’d love to see them work similar magic here even if it isn’t in the immediate future.

      Meanwhile, there are already some on NextSTL that suggest national retailers may look to Midtown instead because there isn’t enough density downtown. Of course I realize the density in downtown St. Louis does not compare to Chicago, Seattle, or Portland, all of which have (or will soon have) a CityTarget in their downtown. But density isn’t the only factor Target may consider as it expands its urban store concept. What about retail leakage- all of the dollars that flow out of downtown and into suburban areas like Richmond Heights and Brentwood with more stores? What about economic opportunity, as Target could easily outpace Macy’s anemic sales per square foot and enter the downtown market before CVS and Walgreens? Conventional wisdom says Target and other national retailers may cluster just west of downtown or even in Midtown near Highway 40. But I’m not ready to give up on downtown retail yet.

  2. Moe says:

    Shopping on line is the downfall of many brick and mortar stores. I find it ironic that for many that proclaim they want more and more stores downtown, they shop on line. We need more than just restaurants and such to bring downtown alive.

    • DTWorker says:

      The downtown Macy’s selection just wasn’t comparable to their suburban locations, at least not the one time I went there to buy a pair of shorts and couldn’t find anything other than Cardinals gear and a smattering of weird labels. That was the first and only time I tried shopping at the DT Macy’s, you know what they say about first impressions. I really wanted to support them too, but I’m not going to throw my money away either.

      I don’t think Macy’s put much into the downtown store and it showed. That’s why a lot of people didn’t shop there in my opinion.

      They didn’t really offer anything that I needed as a downtown worker. Now a downtown Target I would probably be at least 2 times a week.

      • Sapna says:

        Completely agree. The selection was limited to the people who do not have Cardinals gear, which I think every one in STL and their mothers have cardinals gear by now or they can buy it literally anywhere else for cheaper.

        I would LOVE a Target downtown. Now there is a place I would go at least once a week!

    • Scott Jones says:

      Hopefully congress will level the playing field by requiring sales taxes be collected for online purchases.

      • gmichaud says:

        If that happens the playing field won’t be truly level until Wal Mart, Target and the rest only have photos of what you want to buy, you select what you want and then pay for shipping to your address.

    • Dennis says:

      The restaurants cannot survive because they have to compete with shit wagons on four wheels. And by the logic you expressed in an earlier post, a simple modification of business strategy will even the playing fields between brick and mortar stores and on-line [email protected]!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • moe says:

        Welcome to the grey world of business. But I’m not the one lamenting the closing of a brick and mortar store while at the same time saying we need more businesses downtown and shopping on line. They should close if they are not offering what the customer wants. And that is the same with food trucks/restaurants. At least a “shit wagons on four wheels” is paying taxes, hiring, and adding to the local economy.

  3. William Zbaren says:

    Target would be the best option _ it moved into the Carson building ( Louis Sullivan ) in Chicago and is doing very well _ hopefully that will happen now in St Louis _ Macys NEVER intended on staying downtown _ it was a temp. PR fix to look good for its other locations around town _ it was a cheap shot by them and it looked like it

    • mrh1027 says:

      I’d love to see CityTarget take Macy’s place in the Railway Exchange. It’d be the most ideal tenant in my opinion, especially because Target would work to preserve the original architectural features that were covered up years ago by Famous-Barr and neglected by Macy’s for the better part of a decade.

      I was one of the few dinosaurs left that tried to shop at Macy’s Downtown as much as possible. I was there when Macy’s had its block party, I took my children to the revived holiday celebrations, and I bought into the hype. And I felt like a fool, as Macy’s never really put forth any effort to make the store better, and when they downsized the store, they took away the restaurants, which brought in a lot of people who may have never shopped there otherwise. I agree that it was a PR move to placate local leaders and the handful of loyal shoppers like me that stuck with the downtown store through thick and thin. They never really tried to enhance the shopping experience, they never offered the variety that can be found at suburban stores, and they slowly stripped away everything that made shopping there attractive in the first place. As much as it pains me to see this store close, it’s sad in its current state as well.

  4. guest says:

    Steve, I think you should do a poll on civic leadership/agenda setting. One man’s urban utopia is another man’s pipe dream/waste of taxpayer dollars. How do we set a regional agenda? What should our priorities be? Is it time to write off the north side? Do more land banking? Fund public transit? Emphasize demolition? Improve parks besides Forest Park? Who should lead the way and how do we get public support? It seems we let our leaders off too easy and that we don’t challenge them enough. Or, maybe there already is an agenda. If so, what is it?

    • JZ71 says:

      Mostly agree . . . . Unfortunately, the real problem, locally, is that there are already way too many agendas, often times working at cross purposes. Elsewhere in the country, thriving areas are attracting investments from outside their respective regions and seeing them settle in many pockets; stagnant and failing areas are seeing investments leaving their regions and attempting to fill the voids by “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic”. Leadership should be the key to the solution, but much like preschoolers, our leaders have yet to learn how to “play nice” together.

      • guest says:

        County Exec Dooley (D) and Mayor Slay (D) seem to be working together, but St. Charles County topper Steve Ehlmann (R) is keeping his toys all across the Missouri river, all the while shouting from the rooftops of vinyl-sided suburbia that the new economic center of the region has shifted to St. Charles County. There’s your leadership right there!

        • moe says:

          Very true. But they sure know how to come into the City for the free stuff: Zoo, museums, balloon race, other races, sports…the list goes on and on. Talk about leeches!

          But unfortunately it does not help us as a region or a city to have a wasteland to our east right on our door step. East St. Louis must be revitalized.

          • guest says:

            Okay, I’ll bite. How do you revitalize ESL? Who leads that effort? What market? What product? Who pays? It’s been tried and talked about for 30 years.

            Much like Wellston, ESL is broken and should be put out of business. First things first. Who will lead that effort?

            It’s getting frustrating to read this blog. It seems all that is discussed are problems with no discussion of the leadership required to turn things around.

          • moe says:

            That Mr. Guest is the million dollar question. Both the north side and East St. Louis have been the Achilles heel of the City…and for longer than 30 years. At least north has McKee (right or wrong, time will tell). ESL is an entirely different ball game….and we look down on it instead of embracing it. It is a blank slate of prime real estate. But if we couldn’t even get an industrial area to be moved to make way for the park (forgot the name) how are we going to do anything?

          • True. East St. Louis will be a tough one, but when driving or walking (yes, walking) through its former/remaining business district, you can see the bones for “potential.”

            If it was put to ballot that East St. Louis could be annexed to the City of St. Louis (and, as a result, Missouri), I’d vote for it. To hold both sides of the river could be momentous for St. Louis, and that’s when you could really begin making St. Louis the “river city” it once was.

            There are many, many, many (many, many, many…) reasons people would use to dissent — increased crime ranking, existing STL areas that should be fixed first, racial discrimination, etc — which would likely make the ballot a massive failure…even if the both Cities, States and Counties (and possibly nationally) lined up their ducks and approved the transition.

            Personally, I’d love to see it happen, but understand that there’s a snowball’s chance in hell of ever doing so.

          • guest says:

            Then let’s get back to reality. And the issue of leadership. And the challenge of setting priorities. Maybe the answer is that when the people organize around certain issues and put up their own personal funds, then leaders will support the effort. Hence success at Forest Park Forever and the City+ Arch + River project.

            In those cases, private money came first. Then leadership stood in favor. Unfortunately, too many of our “urban agenda” items require massive amounts of public money up front, and most elected eschew the idea of getting out in front on such pricey tax and spend endeavors. After all, none of them wants to get “Elliot Davis’d”!

          • ESL does have good bones! The close proximity to downtown and MetroLink are also pluses. Which reminds me, I need to go back and check on the progress of the new housing at the Emerson Park station.

    • mrh1027 says:

      Since we’re talking about agenda setting in a thread about Macy’s Downtown closing soon, what about an agenda for downtown retail?

      Am I the only one that thinks our city’s leaders are absolutely clueless when it comes to promoting retail downtown? Part of the reason Macy’s faltered was because it didn’t offer the variety of merchandise found in suburban stores. Also, Macy’s corporate closed two popular restaurants, cut off skybridge access from the garage it formerly owned, and curtailed the holiday events that drew people downtown and held almost all other events at suburban stores. So once the restaurants were gone and the store was downsized, there was no reason to go there, especially if you lived near another Macy’s store that offered more.

      Another problem is the lack of co-tenancy in the area. The remaking of St. Louis Centre into Mercantile Exchange is a great development. A movie theater is a most welcome addition, the new restaurants are nice, Collective MX is a neat concept, and the blues museum will be a draw. But where’s the retail? And why are the storefronts on Locust and Sixth streets still vacant? Bottom line, another reason people stopped shopping at Macy’s was because there was no adjacent shopping nearby. You have more choices in a mall or even many strip centers than you do in downtown currently. Keep in mind there were dozens of stores in this area before St. Louis Centre was built, and retail was concentrated along Sixth, Seventh, Olive, and Locust streets, anchored by Famous-Barr, Stix Baer & Fuller, and Scruggs-Vandervoort-Barney. The nature of retail has changed dramatically since Vandervoort’s was the first big store to go. And now that Macy’s is pulling the plug on 100 years of Famous-Barr history, it’s clear that the era of the downtown department store is over here. But that doesn’t have to be the end for retail in downtown.

      My concern is that our leaders seem content with downtown being devoted to sports, parades, and casinos. And now that there are a lot of restaurants from which to choose, I suppose we’re supposed to be excited that some stay open on evenings and weekends, too. But where’s the retail- and where’s the strategy to attract retailers? Infrastructure has been upgraded in several spots downtown, but not along the four streets that I mentioned which were home to many retailers years ago, and those streets look worse for the wear as a result. In the previous decade, several independent retailers took a chance on downtown and few survived. In part, this was because they were scattered across downtown almost randomly. What if they had a chance to locate near Macy’s or Culinaria? Is there at least a chance that they could have been more successful?

      Don’t get me wrong- I am very bullish on downtown’s future. But I am disappointed in the lack of leadership, and the indifferent attitude that our city’s leaders seem to have toward downtown retail.

      • JZ71 says:

        Our political leaders can only do so much. Retailers track what sells and adjust their stock accordingly. Eventually, if not enough sells, the going-out-of-business sale happens and the store closes. As for where new retailers choose to locate, it’s up to them – it’s their money and their gamble. Government can create financial incentives, but high rent is rarely a hurdle in successful retail – Rodeo Drive and Michigan Avenue ain’t cheap, and neither is the Galleria or West County Mall The biggest two hurdles downtown for mass retailers are perceptions and demographics. Downtown is not perceived to offer the same products or shopping experience as the better retail malls, while both downtown residents and downtown workers choose to (wait to) trek out to the suburbs for the better shopping experience.

        Downtown is no longer a regional draw for larger retailers, so the retail landscape has shifted to, and is continuing to shift to, smaller, specialized retailers focused on segments of a diverse local market – loft dwellers, nearby lower-income residents, a dwindling base of office workers (many of whom now choose to shop online during their lunch hours) and the random cast of conventioneers, tourists and sports fans. Bars and restaurants are obvious fits, as are souvenir and sports-themed shops. There are also opportunities for smaller, general merchandise operations – Circle K, 7-Eleven, Walgreens, CVS – as well as discounters like Family Dollar and Dollar General. But if you want / expect to see a Target or a Whole Foods or an H&M, it’s going to take a significant change in both perceptions and demographics / density of spendable dollars before that happens. Much like how retailers “count rooftops” before opening a store in the bubs, they count potential sales before they go downtown. And much like with transit, density plays a big part in the equation.

    • guest says:

      Good example! But where would the leadership/funding come from to do this? The Mayor’s office? Monsanto? A Kickstarter campaign? How does a project like this get on the regional agenda? Who provides the leadership/energy/vision?

  5. guest says:

    Classic example of STL-styled leadership unfolding right now: Cupples 7 demolition. The City Treasurer, Tishaura Jones, is apparently the leading voice on the fate of this historic building. A City Treasurer? Huh? What about the alderman for the ward? The President of the Board of Aldermen? The chief elected officer of the city? Everyone pants about what they “want”, but again, there’s no real leadership to make it happen. It’s crisis management. This issue has been stewing for years. Now it appears, bizarrely, that the city is holding the bag and is about spend millions to demolish a derelict, privately owned building. And rather than acting as a visionary leader, the Treasurer must respond more like a civic pathologist or public administrator, handling the remains of a dead carcass, paying the bills, and trying to locate any creditors.

    • mrh1027 says:

      Well said. That’s St. Louis leadership in a nutshell. Who was it that said that the definition of insanity is ‘doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result’? I don’t know, but obviously he was thinking of leadership St. Louis style. I love this city but I have no faith in city government.


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