Connie Hoen of Oakdale was one of about 30 customers waiting quietly in line before the doors opened on the first day of Macy's closing sale at its downtown St. Paul store. She found the storewide discounts of 20 to 40 percent "disappointing," She was carrying around a Fitz & Floyd giftware set but wasn't sure if she would keep it. "I don't know what the discount percentage is," she said.
Early Monday morning, many items still did not have signs up indicating the discount. Signs such as "20 to 40 percent off storewide" and "nothing held back" were somewhat misleading. Cosmetics and fragrances are not discounted, which is typical of most department store GOB sales, including Bloomingdale's at Mall of America last year. One store employee said the cosmetics and fragrances would be around at full-price until Valentine's Day and then removed from the shelves.
Cold weather items such as winter coats, scarves and gloves were discounted 50 percent in men's and women's departments, including a few on clearance that received an additional 20 percent discount.
Holiday gift collections such as Harry & David Moose Munch buckets ($34 regularly) were discounted 70 percent in St. Paul, but at the downtown Minneapolis store, the same item was discounted higher, at 75 percent off.
Overall, shoppers who remember the Bloomingdale's GOB sale a year ago could see similar patterns at work. (Macy's owns Bloomingdale's.) The identical signs advertising the percent savings hang from the ceiling throughout the store. However, Bloomingdale's opening salvo was lower at 10 to 40 percent. The sale will last 7 to 11 weeks.
Macy's spokeswoman Andrea Schwartz said the store will continue to employ its regular sales people along with a liquidator. When liquidation specialists are brought in help with a sale, there aren't usually as many deals, said Patrick Fleetham, who owned Fleetham Furniture in Uptown and Re-Furnish in Bloomington.
Like at the Bloomie's sale, the best deals are on items that rarely go on sale or are already on clearance. Any items that are on sale at other Macy's stores are not on sale at the St. Paul store. that makes the GOB price often higher than a sale price. For example, Martha Stewart Plush towels ($18 for a bath towel before the discount) are discounted 20 percent at the GOB sale. They're not on sale at the other Macy's stores currently, but they typically sell for $10 when they are on sale. How can a shopper know? Macy's puts its prices in an acrylic stand near the item. Anyone can look behind the cardboard sheet in the stand and find the sale price sheet behind it. There's no secret to it. Macy's employees will show the sale price in front of customers.
Unlike the Bloomingdale's sale, no Oriental rugs and furniture have shown up yet. According to the Better Business Bureau, stores cannot bring in unrelated merchandise to a closing store or continue the sale longer than 120 days. Even though the Macy's downtown did not sell Oriental rugs or furniture, the store would be allowed to bring them in because other Macy's stores sell them, said Dan Hendrickson at the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota.
For the first time, all Macy's locations (except the furniture stores near Rosedale and Southdale) will remain open all night Friday and Saturday. The extended hours include the downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul stores too. All stores will remain open through midnight Sunday, except for the Twin Cities' downtown stores which will close at 9 p.m. in St. Paul and 10 p.m. in Minneapolis.
Toys 'R Us stores will remain open through10 p.m. on Christmas Eve.
Last year Old Navy was part of the extended holiday hour club but it dropped out this year.
I asked a Twin Cities shopper to name a luxury retailer that she wished would come to the Twin Cities.
"Barney's" she said, naming the high-end men's and women's New York City-based department store. Then she confessed that when she shops at one of the New York stores, she hardly ever buys anything. We finally decided that
the chances of Barney's ever putting down Twin Cities roots are slim.
For a better idea, I asked reps from Mall of America and the Galleria to give us some hints, but both are too competitive to ever name names of potential luxury clients. Each fears that the other will swoop in and steal a retailer, so I checked with Beth Perro-Jarvis of Ginger Consulting, a retail consulting company in Minneapolis for her thoughts. Here are her suggestions:
Scoop could offer modern, hip and casual to 50th & France, Mall of America or Galleria. it has up-market brands such as Rag & Bone, Alice & Olivia and Missoni, but not at out-of-reach prices.
Tory Burch has a passionate twin Cities following and her stores are always lively, cute and fun.
A Kate Spade store for the same reasons.
Ralph Lauren's new Rugby store concept is targeted to a younger, preppie market and is popping up in places such as Chicago and Boston. Unfortunately, Lauren recently decided to shutter the stores and will close down the website by Feb. 2013. Get it while you can.
For more information about the loss and gain of luxury retail in the Twin Cities, go to today's story.
If you know of others, note them here. As mentioned in the story, rumors are still flying about a new Nordstrom location at Ridgedale.
For years, the future of the St. Paul Macy's store has seemed unclear.
Earlier this year, my esteemed colleague Rochelle Olson wrote that a key deadline for the store at 411 Cedar St. will come at the end of the year. As of Dec. 31, the department store will be free from a looming financial obligation to the city and may leave at any time.
On Wednesday announced several changes to "better serve the downtown customer." Macy's estimates that there are 75,000 downtown busienss workers and residents in St. Paul.
The biggest change is that the St. Paul Macy's will no longer be open on Sundays, and it will close at 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. That's an hour earlier than the current schedule. Holiday hours may vary.
In terms of merchandise, Macy's said it was boosting "the dressing needs of nearby office workers" by expanding the women's career collections, shoes, hosiery, handbags, as well as men's business collections, shoes and basics. A larger selection of watches, luggage, briefcases and gifts will be available, as well.
Macy's spokeswoman Andrea Schwartz said staffing levels will increase with 12 more employees during high-traffic hours from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 to 6 p.m. Currently, the store employs 137 people.
The changes are expected to be completed by the end of June.
Janet Moore is a business reporter for the Star Tribune.
Target Corp. and Best Buy Co. Inc. may compete for consumer electronics shoppers. But the two Minnesota-based retail giants took decidedly opposite tracks during last year's holiday shopping season.
Last week, Target admitted that it took a beating in holiday sales because other retailers slashed prices more deeply than Target. But CEO Gregg Steinhafel said Target would gladly sacrifice some sales in order to protect its profits.
"We think that's a good trade-off to make because we're not going to get into this race to the bottom and give [merchandise] away at all costs," Steinhafel said. "We don't think it's healthy over the long term."
Best Buy said pretty much the same thing two years ago. But last November, the retailer switched gears and said it would step up price cutting to win market share from competitors like Wal-Mart and Amazon.
So why is Best Buy is from Mars and Target from Venus?
Retailers have always struggled with the classic tension between sales and profit margins: you want to capture market share and drive same-store sales, but at what price?
In Best Buy's case, the retailer used to imply higher margin services like Geek Squad and Internet growth could somehow offset its eroding in-store sales. But last year, Dunn concluded that it must first drive people to stores before it can do anything else.
It's no secret that Best Buy is under serious attack from Amazon, a situation made worse by falling consumer electronics sales. Best Buy said same-store sales in December fell 1.2 percent in December, a number that surely would've been worse had the retailer not resorted to more discounting.
Target, on the other hand, doesn't face the same kind of existential pressure as Best Buy so I suppose the retailer can afford to be more high minded about the "race to the bottom."
As if to prove its own point, Target said January same-store sales rose a strong 4 percent, a number the retailer says it will likely surpass in February.
But not all analysts feel as confident as Target.
In recent research note, David Strasser, an analyst with Janney Capital Markets, doesn't think Target's strategy of margins over sales makes much sense in this still weak economy. In addition, competitors like Wal-Mart and JC Penney are ramping up this year to capture more sales through discounting.
In other words, Target risks losing more market share to its competitors, Strasser said.
"We still struggle with the strategic decision to defend margins in this environment," Strasser wrote. "We find it ironic that a company that seems extremely focused on driving long term customer loyalty would manage gross margin so tightly at a time when consumers are cash-strapped, competitors are investing margin to drive traffic, and as pricing transparency is much greater due to the Internet."
"Time will tell if it was the prudent decision," he wrote.
As it turns out, the most violent disturbance at the Mall of America in 15 years was just another teenage fight that quickly spiraled out of control.
Bloomington police are still investigating the Dec. 26 melee but officials now think it was "most likely" random, said deputy chief Rick Hart.
Mall of America officials referred questions to the Bloomington Police.
The YouTube footage of the melee that quickly spread throughout the mall led credence to the theory the fight was premeditated, perhaps fueled by social media.
Earlier that day, rumors spread on social media that rappers Lil Wayne and Drake would perform at the MOA. Teenagers flock to the mall. A fight breaks out in the food court. Minutes later, teenagers are throwing fists and chairs at one another.
MOA officials were so caught off guard by the fight that they also initially suspected the brawl was organized via Twitter and Facebook. A "flash mob" with more sinister intentions perhaps?
Adding to the confusion was the mall's initial decision, which it quickly reversed, to lock down the property. Eventually, some stores closed early on one of the year's busiest shopping days.
All in all, 10 people were arrested for disorderly conduct, including four juveniles: a 15-year-old, a 16-year-old and two 17-year-olds.
Hart, the spokesman, said police are still working with the mall to identify additional suspects. Those already arrested could still face more serious charges, including rioting, a gross misdemeanor, and assault, a felony.