When customers walk into certain Macy's stores, they can now ask a complementary personal shopper for help picking out an outfit and use virtual reality to visualize how a couch could fit into the exact dimensions of a room.
Those features are among the highlights of the retailer's investment of more than $200 million in 50 stores across the country. The Macy's stores at the King of Prussia and Cherry Hill Malls, offer personal shoppers but not virtual reality, company spokeswoman Julie Strider said Friday.
"The investment we're making in these 50 stores is paying off, and supports our thesis that with the right talent and investment, our stores can be vibrant, productive, and profitable shopping destinations," Jeff Gennette, Macy's Inc.'s chairman and chief executive, said in a recent earnings call.
Another Macy's executive said the performance of the so-called Growth50 stores was strong enough to take the program nationwide.
The Cincinnati-based company had 660 Macy's store locations at the end of 2017, down from 737 in 2015, according to its most recent annual report. Macy's also operates Bloomingdale's, Bloomingdale's the Outlet, Macy's Backstage, bluemercury, and Story, taking its total number of stores to about 860, its most recent quarterly report said.
The retailer said the Growth50 store improvements included "reimagined beauty departments that encourage inspiration and discovery " and merchandise selections tailored to each store's demographic. The King of Prussia Macy's, which previously carried mattresses, has added a full assortment of furniture, because customers requested it, said Strider, the retailer's spokesperson. The store also added Finish Line children's shoes and Impulse beauty brands.
There are also the "Scan and Pay" feature on the retailer's mobile app, the "My Stylist"concept for personal shopping, and "At Your Service" for online pickups and returns.
Macy's has also been expanding Backstage, its mall-based off-price store, and opened 47 locations within Macy's in the second quarter of 2018, including at the King of Prussia Mall. As of August, there were 117 Backstage locations, 110 of which were inside existing stores, and the company plans to open about 120 more.
The company had a $3 million increase in selling, general and administrative expenses in the second quarter of 2018 compared with the same time last year, mostly driven by the retailer's recent investments, according to the most recent quarterly filing. At the same time, Macy's reported that the investments in the 50 stores were one reason for "strong sales trend improvement in the second quarter of 2018, earlier than expected."
Macy's had net sales of $24.8 billion last year, compared with $28.1 billion in 2014 and $27.9 billion in 2013. Like many department stores, Macy's has closed stores in recent years, a total of 124 from 2015 to 2017. During the same time, it opened 91 stores.
Macy's had three consecutive quarters of comparable sales growth, with this most recent quarter seeing 0.5 percent growth. The first quarter saw a 4.2 percent increase. The retailer has not announced what other stores could be getting the Growth50 treatment next year.
Here is the Growth50 store list provided by the company:
Chandler, Glendale (Arrowhead)
Cerritos (Los Cerritos), Los Angeles (Downtown), Montebello, Northridge, Rancho Cucamonga (Victoria Gardens), Roseville (Roseville Galleria), San Diego (University Town Center), Santa Ana (Santa Ana MainPlace), Torrance (Del Amo Fashion Center), Walnut Creek
Lone Tree (Park Meadows)
Aventura, Hialeah (Westland), Miami (Miami International), Orlando (Florida Mall), Pembroke Pines (Pembroke Lake)
Atlanta (Lenox Square), Buford (Mall of Georgia)
Skokie (Old Orchard)
Indianapolis (Castleton Square)
Boston, Braintree (South Shore Plaza), Peabody (Northshore)
Novi (Twelve Oaks), Troy (Somerset)
Bloomington (Mall of America)
Las Vegas (Summerlin)
Salem (Mall at Rockingham Park)
Cherry Hill, Lawrenceville (Quaker Bridge), Short Hills, Wayne (Willowbrook)
Yonkers (Cross County)
Cincinnati (Kenwood), Columbus (Easton)
Tigard (Washington Square)
King of Prussia
Dallas (NorthPark Center), Frisco (Stonebriar Centre), Houston (Memorial City), Sugar Land (First Colony)
Richmond (Short Pump), Springfield