Macy’s abruptly closed the Marketplace food area on the third floor of the Southdale Center store a couple of weeks ago. One day, you could get a grilled cheese or a tortellini salad; the next day, you couldn’t. Now, the tables are gone, the grill and food cases are boarded up, and all that remains is a small sign in front of the empty department thanking customers for their patronage over the years.
It’s not the loss of food and drink that makes the decision to shutter a longstanding department so disheartening. Sure, you can still get a coffee at Starbucks on the first floor and popovers at the full-service Lake Shore Grill on the lower level of the Macy's Southdale store. I think what’s turning off customers today—customers who have accepted that Macy’s isn’t attempting to be the Dayton’s or Marshall Field’s of yesteryear—is the spiral of deterioration. It doesn’t seem like Macy’s is making an effort to reinvigorate its fast casual food service, or try something entirely new in place of Marketplace. It looks like they just gave up.
That nonchalance hits me—and offends me—every time I see a pile of clothes on a fitting room floor, or use a bathroom with overflowing trash cans or out-of-order stalls. If Macy's doesn't care about this store, why should I? Frankly, it's not fun to shop there anymore, and I can find most of what Macy's sells, or similar, elsewhere.
I said as much to Andrea Schwartz, vice president of media relations and cause marketing for Macy’s North Central division. She’s a true retail veteran, who remembers the department store's glory days and has talked customers through many transitions, and the end to many traditions—always finding a note of hope or positivity, even when there seems to be none.
“Southdale is an important store to us and, making our customers’ shopping experience positive is important to us,” Schwartz says. “The location of Marketplace was tucked away on third floor in the home department near a closed off entrance—not suited for ideal customer traffic. We are always looking for newness, and perhaps in the future, we may expand the options for quick serve (food).”
Not all Macy’s stores offer the exact same assortment of departments, brands, or services, but it seems strange to me that the retailer wouldn’t want some level of consistency, especially among its better stores, like Southdale. The new Ridgedale store, for example, has an updated Marketplace design with hot and cold food options and ample seating.
But consistency doesn’t seem to be a priority.
“Throughout the country, we have lots of different food venues in our stores,” Schwartz says. “Some have been around for years and others just opened—like in Herald Square, we have a food truck concept.”
Despite Schwartz’s assurances about the importance of customer experience, that experience continues to erode. Dirty bathrooms. Beat up furniture. Fitting rooms that look like they haven’t been swept since Santa Bear was in the store.
“I totally understand,” Schwartz said, when I shared with her my own observations, and similar comments I hear from readers and radio listeners whenever the topic of Macy’s comes up. “It’s important to us to make sure our customers are provided with the best accommodations. If they find the bathrooms or fitting rooms below their expectations, the best response I can give is that our customers need to alert management about the issues – no matter how great or small. They can do this one of two ways: request to speak to a manager when in the store, or send a ‘tell us what you think’ on macys.com. I promise all of these are read and addressed.”
Consider this my comment card. With the abundance of shopping options today, experience is more important than ever, and that includes not only what’s on the racks, but the ambiance, the service, the variety, and the extra touches—such as food and beverage—that used to make a department store feel special, like a one-stop shop where you could easily spend the afternoon. Fashion retail, in particular, is all about making people feel good about themselves. That should start with showing a little pride in your own appearance, Macy’s.