Saks, Macy’s, Trend Apart

Once again, the 2006 53-week calendar has made this year’s month-to-month comparisons somewhat difficult. For most retailers, the month had one less week of pre-Mother’s Day sales and one additional week of pre-Memorial Day sales. This shift clearly had different effects on different retailers. The most significant statistic coming out from this month’s analysis is the fact that eight retailers have clearly improving trends while 28 have declining trends. While this could indicate a softening of the retail market, it is interesting to look at the makeup of the two groups. The winners include value retailers like BJ’s and Sam’s, mid-market retailers like Jos. A. Bank and Guess, and top-of-the market retailers like Tiffany’s and Saks. The declining group includes retailers in virtually every channel. Go to www.gordmangroup.com to view the detailed report.

The most interesting story may be the opposite long-term trends of Saks and Macy’s (the retailer formally known as Federated). In the past 12 months, Saks’ comp-store trend improved from 9% to 37.5% (May’s results were overstated by a shift in the timing of a promotion. The previous 90-day trend was 14.4%). In the same time frame, Macy’s comp-store trend declined from 4.8% to a negative 3%.

The secret to the success at Saks may be found in a September 2006 interview with Ron Frasch, vice chairman and chief merchant. In the interview, Ron discussed Saks’ return to its traditional sweet spot—serving the needs of the wealthier consumer with a classic taste level by providing superior service and styling. Ron stated, “Saks made the big mistake in chasing young consumers with tight clothing, turning off its loyal customers in their forties.” Saks is now laser-focused on a very small but affluent population.

By contrast, Macy’s has complicated its business by acquiring a large group of stores from May Co. that are in markets with incomes materially lower than the traditional Macy’s store. It is now attempting to serve a very diverse mix of customers with one national brand. This will not be an easy challenge to overcome.

Comp-Store Sales Trend


The information contained in this report has been obtained or developed from sources which we believe to be reliable, including but not limited to information published by the companies named in this report; but we disclaim responsibility for the accuracy of such information or for any use of such information by a reader of this report.
Retailer May 2007 Previous 90 Days Previous 6 months Previous 9 months Previous 12 months
Macy’s Inc. –3.3% 0.5% 4.7% 5.1% 4.8%
Saks Inc. 37.5% 14.4% 12.0% 11.1% 9.0%