Pay for play and falling idols

Carole Sloan, July 14, 2003

Welcome to the newest retail profit center. It's Macy's East's newest gimmick — well beyond the retailer's legendary proliferation of time-based sale coupons.

This one is "Macy's Frequent Shoppers Club" — a significant consumer benefit that only costs 50 bucks to get into. For this 50 bucks you get 10 percent back — not off — on "almost everything you buy." The almost excludes furniture, bedding, rugs, gift cards, the club enrollment and sales tax.

So to begin to get back anything and cover the enrollment, there's $500 in purchases. Then for every 50 bucks you earn, you get a "reward card," not a credit on your account, so the more you buy, the more "reward card" monies you accumulate — and you still have to pay your bill, the revolving credit fees and the sales tax.

Since the program is only offered in the upstate New York communities of Albany and Colonie at this point, it's obvious this retailing giant is testing the waters.

Moving along, one is amazed at how some well-known retail icons have been having their icon status chipped away of late.

Remember Dillard's? This department store group was the retailer to watch a decade or so ago — one that could do no wrong, or so it seemed.

Today it is the likes of Wal-Mart, Target and Kohl's that have assumed that mantle.

But Wal-Mart has been running into situations in parts of the country that do not revere the company's culture. Ergo, discrimination lawsuits and union challenges are coming about more often — and outside the company's Arkansas purview.

Target's Tar-Jayness is eroding as the company scales back some of the headliner design stars in favor of merchandise that sells, and sets its fabled State Street Chicago Marshall Field's emporium to be another Taubman or Simon Property Group as the landlord par excellence in the department store arena.

And Kohl's, about whom the world of suppliers and competitors almost swooned over the past decade is running up against its own success as comp increases tighten and the spectacular growth scenario leavens.

One wonders: Who will be the next idol?

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