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Macy's Takes on Lifestyle Challenge with New Store Concept

Macy's is opening a new kind of store for a new kind of mall.

The unique store concept, officially debuting today in Gilbert, Ariz., an affluent suburb of Phoenix, is a prototype that operates on one level â€" no elevators or escalators â€" over 120,000 square feet, but it won't be unique for long. Macy's plans to roll out three stores built to the same design this year as better fit to open air lifestyle malls, the shoppers' village retail centers that have become increasingly popular with commercial developers. San Tan Village, the 1.2 million square foot retail development where the Macy's prototype is debuting, is owned by westcor, a division of major mall owner and developer Macerich. The next three one-level Macy's stores will open in Fairview, Texas, Lee's Summit, Mont., and Nampa, Idaho. Rather than part of an interconnected facility, the Macy's is included as one of several San Tan retail buildings fronted by traditional parking lots but connected by pedestrian malls, walkways and streets. Contemporary style--including strong overhangs and iconic entry elements--tailors Macy's to fit with the other San Tan shops, which include big box operators Best Buy, Barnes & Noble and Dick's Sporting Goods in addition to mall operators such as Fossil and Dillard's, another department store helping anchor the lifestyle center.

Macy's has been taking on some attributes that might bring it closer in operation to mass market retailers like Kohl's or even Kmart in its development of a single-level operation as well as in its courting of Martha Stewart, but the concept it is opening in San Tan Village emphasizes luxury, consistent with Macy's sense that it may be able to take market share from fancier department stores such as Saks in the recession by promoting affordable luxury. So, the fitting rooms in the new Macy's are designed to feel like lounges, complete with sofas and skylights. The store also boasts an Internet café offering wireless web access and comfortable seating that sets it up as a place to rest or relax.

San Tan Village Entrances on each of the freestanding Macy's four sides and big windows open on pedestrian paths encourage shopping mall strollers to think of its departments as individual stores and to drop in to browse as they might San Tan Village's Banana Republic outlet, said Susan Trotter, a Macy's spokesperson, who noted that "all the merchandise categories are easily accessible to customers."

San Tan Village represents a new generation of mall, but venerable Macy's wants to make sure it fits right in.

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