How Ralph Lazarus addressed Macy's Inc. analysts posthumously this week

Late chairman: Always room for "the right store"

CINCINNATI - How far will Macy’s Inc. go to impress Wall Street analysts?

This week, they called upon the ghost of Ralph Lazarus to convince attendees of the Nomura Securities Retail Conference that their strategies are sound, if not timeless.

One of Cincinnati’s most beloved business leaders, Lazarus was chairman of Macy’s predecessor, Federated Department Stores Inc. He was the son of the company’s founder and co-founded the powerful Cincinnati Business Committee with former Procter & Gamble Co. CEO Ed Harness, among other accomplishments.

Lazarus died in 1988 but was summoned for a New York appearance this week by Macy’s Chief Financial Officer Karen Hoguet. She told analysts attending the Nomura Securities Retail Conference in New York that she recently found a speech Ralph Lazarus gave to financial analysts in Boston in 1963.

She read parts of the speech, showing Macy’s approach to retail hasn’t changed much over time.

“Today, everybody wants to know if retailers, despite the continued growth of consumer spendable income, aren't building too many stores,” Lazarus told the Boston Securities Analysts Society on April 1, 1963. “Let me begin to answer those questions with an admission. 

"America was over-stored in 1920, over-stored in 1940, over-stored in 1960, and is over-stored today, for those merchants who visualize just another store. By those standards, America is also over-automobiled, over-soaped, over-televisioned, and over-soda pop-ed. Let's face it, there is not now and there never has been room for just another anything. But one more book will sell if it is the right book, one more soup will sell if it is the right soup, and one more store will prosper even in the face of heated competition if it is the right store,” Lazarus said.

Hoguet said she is convinced that’s Macy’s three-pronged strategy of improving product selection through its My Macy’s initiative, building out its mobile, online and in-store transaction platforms through its Omnichannel initiative and improving customer service with its MAGIC Selling systems will ensure that Macy’s is “the right store,” as Lazarus put it.

“Fifty years from now, who knows what the threat will be,” Hoguet said. “But I guarantee you somebody else will be sitting here talking to people like all of us. And the good retailers will have survived.”


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