Eileen Jaglo and Patty Hagen of Brooklyn Park have been attending the Macy’s flower show since it was the Dayton’s flower show in the 1960s.
But in the past few years, a pesky nuisance invades the tranquil, verdant beds of ranunculus and peonies as the sisters ask themselves, “Will this show be the last one?”
“Every year we worry because we love the show,” said Hagen. “We lost the Holidazzle parade. We don’t want to lose the flower show too.”
Macy’s, in partnership with local florist Bachman’s, sponsors the annual show, and representatives from both companies say it’s not going anywhere.
“Macy’s flower show is a destination, and we want to continue with that inherited legacy,” said Andrea Schwartz, vice president of media relations for Macy’s north-central region.
But retailing is being reshaped by shoppers’ growing use of mobile and online shopping, influencing marketing priorities. And that comes after years of pressure on downtown shopping districts by malls in suburbs. Downtown Minneapolis saw its Holidazzle, a series of nightly parades during the holidays, replaced last year with a scaled-down outdoor market.
Meanwhile, Macy’s has reduced its selling space by 20 percent downtown and its annual holiday show, which used to change themes annually, is now repeated.
Though it’s impossible to predict the flower show’s longevity, Schwartz said, “As long as our customers and the Twin Cities want to enjoy it, it gives us a good reason to maintain it.”
Attendance continues to be strong for the show, which continues through April 4 on the eighth floor of the downtown Macy’s. Each year, about 65,000 people see the show during its two-week run. About 2,000 guests attended within the first two hours of the opening a week ago.
But some local retail experts say strong attendance may not be enough, noting Holidazzle also drew crowds before it was canceled.
“People got into the habit of coming en masse and then turning around and going home,” said Steve Cramer, president of the Minneapolis Downtown Council. “Fewer and fewer people made it a downtown experience of shopping and dining out.”
Cramer said the flower show is one of the things that distinguishes the downtown Macy’s from its suburban stores.
“Having no admission fee makes it attractive, but if people don’t support the businesses, it will go away,” said Dave Brennan, co-director of the University of St. Thomas Institute for Retailing Excellence.
Burt Flickinger III, managing director of Strategic Resource Group in New York, thinks sounding the alarm is premature. “Flowers, fashion, art and culture are an important part of Macy’s heritage,” he said. “Even if a person attending the show doesn’t make a destination purchase, it creates a strong bond with Macy’s.”
Flickinger pointed to the longevity of Macy’s flower shows in New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco as evidence of the company’s commitment.
Dale Bachman, CEO of Bachman’s, said that both organizations recognize the show as their gift to the community. Although there is no Bachman’s store to patronize at the show, the company still benefits. Independent bus tours from around the state go to the flower show and then to the Bachman’s store on Lyndale Avenue in Minneapolis. “We appreciate those guests,” he said.
After Jaglo and her sister attended the show on Wednesday, they planned to shop around and finish their excursion with another tradition — dinner at the department store’s venerable 12th-floor restaurant.
“We have to do the Oak Grill too,” she said. “We do it every year.”