Macy's looking to revive its downtown Cincinnati store

Merchandising shift to court millennials

CINCINNATI - Macy’s Inc. is looking to revive its downtown Cincinnati store with a new merchandising mix geared to millennials, those 20-something shoppers that the company has identified as a key demographic for future growth.

The new merchandising plan isn’t likely to debut before next spring. But it has the attention of the company’s top executives, five of whom toured the downtown store Friday while in town for the department store chain’s annual meeting.

“We’re hopeful we can renew interest in that store,” said Macy’s Chief Financial Officer Karen Hoguet. “Downtown Cincinnati has not been a great performing store. You know what’s happening with Saks. We really want to make it work.”

Downtown retail has endured some big hits in recent months as Saks Fifth Avenue announced plans to relocate to Kenwood, TJ Maxx closed its Fourth Street store and the owners of Tower Place Mall hatched a plan to replace the empty retail center with a parking garage.

But Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren said Friday that the downtown store remains profitable, that downtown stores remain “an important part of our overall business strategy” and downtown Cincinnati has the ingredients to make a successful downtown store.

“The key component is to have encouraging reasons for young people to move and live downtown,” he said. “They’re going out at night and shopping, using restaurants, spending, creating jobs. That is the circle that we require for success in downtown.”

Hoguet said she initiated Macy’s latest attempt at reviving the downtown store because she’s familiar with new developments in the central business district and Over-the-Rhine. She thinks the store can do better and she asked Macy’s executive team to take a look while she and Lundgren held a two-hour board meeting Friday.

Making the visit were Jeffrey Genette, president and chief merchandising officer, Julie Greiner, chief merchandise planning officer, Martine Reardon, chief marketing officer, Peter Sachse, chief stores officer and Robert (R.B.) Harrison, chief omnichannel officer.

Macy’s renewed interest in downtown drew praise from developer Arn Bortz, who has been working to build an 18-story apartment tower above the Fifth Street store. Plans call for 168 units overlooking Fountain Square with changes to the store’s retail façade along Fifth Street and a lobby extension to better connect Macy’s to Fountain Square.

“They see the potential, at least. Sounds like there’s some new energy all about the store, which makes me very happy,” said Bortz, principal of Towne Properties LLC in Mt Adams. “We stand ready to work with the city and Macy’s to make all of that vision fulfilled.”

Bortz said Macy’s has a lease that expires in 2018 at Fountain Place, which Towne built in partnership with other developers in 1997. Bortz hasn’t talked to Macy’s about a lease extension for the 187,000-square-foot store because he was waiting for a signal that “they want to be there and they want to do what they announced today."

Macy's renewed interest in Fountain Place comes amid speculation that Kenwood Collection is trying to lure Tiffany and Co. to Sycamore Township. Bortz said Tiffany hasn't revealed plans to leave downtown, but he has tried to arrange a meeting with the jeweler's Cincinnati general manager.

"We’d just remind them that they’re leaving at just the wrong time, remind them they have three years left on their lease and they could be very successful downtown if they stay with us ," he said.

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