Macy’s pulled the plug on its downtown store last month. Macy’s, and before that the Bon Marche, had acres of Hanes T-shirts and countertop appliances at 4th and Pine downtown. Some people are wringing their hands over the end of department stores, but not me. I welcome the Amazon world. Coincidentally AWS leases the top six floors of the old Macy’s building. I’m sure the ground floor of the former store will be filled with a Tesla showroom, an acai bowl shop, and other millennial retail.
When I moved to Seattle, I didn’t have a coffee maker. I went to a coffee shop every morning but I knew that my coffee habit would break me. That’s when I wandered into Macy’s. The sticker shock of a $75 Krups machine is still with me. I thought had no choice. I turned my wallet upside down and enjoyed mediocre coffee for a few years.
Macy’s was excellent at selling middling merchandise priced far above the manufacturer’s suggested retail price. What were 1990s shoppers going to do? Drive around town to price check other stores? Macy’s enjoyed a seller’s market.
Enter the Amazon era. It’s hard to hate America’s favorite punching bag when you are clicking Buy Now on a $20 coffee maker. This era means the end of some department stores, but not all. Nordstrom says it has a model for successful stores and the initial results from their $500M location in Manhattan suggest they have succeeded. I don’t know if a half a billion dollar store is financially viable, but I do know that I would enjoy visiting that store at least once.
I no longer use a conventional drip coffee maker. Today I use an insanely advanced Swiss machine that cost an order of magnitude more than my old Krups machine. But of course I saved 30% by getting it on Amazon. No wonder an acai shop is taking over Macy’s.
So we have come to the end of an era for most department stores. Some people are sorry to see it go. They must be the kind of people who enjoy buying a $10 pack of socks for $35.