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.