Macy's department stores has opened their first Backstage outlet store in Minnesota just as Herberger's is closing their only Minnesota outlet. And both are in Maplewood, the St. Paul suburb with a concentration of value stores. 

Macy's Backstage opened softly last Friday to enthusiastic customers in Maplewood mall, said Nancy Dorle, store manager of Maplewood store. "We've seen a significant increase in foot traffic," she said. At the grand opening Saturday, March 24 the first 200 guests in the store will receive a gift card worth $5 to $25. There will also be free balloons, a DJ, and a gift with purchase after the ribbon cutting. 

The new outlet center will not displace the Last Act clearance sections in the men's, women's, handbags and shoe departments. Those areas are still alive and well. No departments were removed to make space for the 18,500 square feet Backstage on Macy's first floor. Intimate apparel is now on the second floor and women's dresses and suits were consolidated in other departments.

Shoppers unfamiliar with Backstage will find an outlet similar to T.J. Maxx and Marshalls. All of the items are purchased specifically for the outlet by a Macy's buying team that only selects items for Backstage. None of the merchandise comes from the full-line Macys, but prices are usually discounted 50% or more from the suggested retail price.

Many categories of items sold in Backstage are new to Macy's, including toys (year round), kids shoes, "grab and go" gourmet packaged foods, pet accessories and small electronics. "It complements the full-line store well," said Emily Workman, a Macy's spokeswoman. There is also a plus-size area for women and juniors with sizes from 1X to 3X and a cosmetics department with brands not found in the full-line store . 

The new outlet has an element of Zara and H &M in Backstage too. The store gets shipments daily, with many items meant to be a fast fashion version of "new and now." "We're about Easter, spring, weddings and graduations now," said Dorle. 

There are 11 dressing rooms throughout and one cashier area. 

Macy's chose the Maplewood area because of the value-driven customers in the area. More Backstages are expected to be added to stores in Minnesota and Wisconsin this year, said Workman. Earlier this year, the company announced it would open an additional 100 Backstages in 2018. 

Less than five minutes' drive from the Maplewood Mall, Herberger's clearance center (Birch Run Station, 1717 Beam Av., Maplewood, 651-777-6134) will close March 28. With a fair amount of women's, men's and kids' apparel remaining, many items are $2 to $5 and the remainder is 50% off the lowest marked price. It opened in 2014 with an unusual concept for an outlet store--100% of its merchandise came from parent company Bon Ton's full-line stores. 

The Herberger's clearance center is just one of 47 full-line and clearance stores Bon-Ton is closing throughout the country this year.

With Backstage, Macy's is following the trend that works well for Nordstrom, T.J. Maxx and outlet malls--selling mostly items that were made specifically for the outlet and never hung in a full-priced department store. 

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