Macy’s is testing a new concept in the southern suburb of Evergreen Park: a dual-store format that includes its discount concept, Macy’s Backstage, and a small-format Macy’s Market.
The store, located at 9700 S. Western Ave. in Evergreen Plaza, opened last week and will mark its official grand opening on Friday. Marc Mastronardi, the company’s director of stores, said in an interview that Macy’s will watch the store’s performance as it decides whether or not to pursue backstage and market pairings in additional locations. There are no additional dual-format stores in the works anytime soon, Mastronardi said.
“As we develop our plans for future years, we’ll go back and start deciding if they’re better represented together, or different, (or) a combination of both,” he said.
At more than 70,000 square feet combined, Evergreen Plaza stores are smaller than the typical Macy’s and are part of the retailer’s growing investment in locations outside of traditional malls. The company announced this summer that it would open Market by Macy’s stores outside of malls in Georgia and Missouri, as well as in Evergreen Park. The Missouri store, when it opens in November, will replace a full-size Macy’s store in the nearby mall that is scheduled to close.
Large department stores and mall retailers have struggled for the last decade, and the pandemic did not help at all. In January 2021, Macy’s announced that it would close its downtown Water Tower Place store. leaving over 300,000 empty square feet. And in April, Water Tower Place’s former owner, Brookfield Properties, announced that walking away from the troubled mall, where the old Macy’s space was left empty.
Last year, the company closed seven mall stores and opened none, according to external communications associate Stephanie Jimenez. The company is on track to open eight Market by Macy’s outside malls by the end of the fall, Jimenez said.
The “vast majority” of U.S. Macy’s are still in malls, Mastronardi said, saying he sees the company’s future growth both inside and outside malls.
Although Macy’s describes the Evergreen Plaza concept as its first dual-store format, it has pursued store-within-store concepts before. The company has Backstage locations in more than 300 of its stores in malls nationwide. In Chicago, a Backstage opened at the company’s State Street flagship in the Marshall Field and Co. Building in April. The company first brought the Backstage concept to the Chicago area in 2018. There are now nine in the area in total.
In another pass at store-in-store concepts, the company is opening Toys R Us stores. at their US retail stores The State Street Toys R Us is scheduled to open this month.
Evergreen Park’s demographics made it an attractive location for the dual-format test location, Mastronardi said. Market by Macy’s has fewer offerings and more selections than a full-size Macy’s, but products are available “across the value scale,” she said; the reduced-price Backstage concept caters to low-income consumers.
“The mix of that assortment aligns with what’s in the suburban Evergreen market,” Mastronardi said. “You have a demographic that is willing to travel that represents a really wide range of age, wealth and gender.”
Macy’s has hired more than 60 people to work at the Evergreen Plaza store, and the company says it plans to hire about 20 seasonal positions as the holiday season approaches.