Philly-area Macy's slated for closure are no longer taking returns

A shopper peruses a jewelry case in the Macy’s store in the Neshaminy Mall Feb. 22, 2017 amid a plethora of inventory reduction and sale signs. The store is one of four locally that will be shutting down.

The frustration showed on Stephanie Orr’s face this week when the Macy’s at Neshaminy Mall turned her down when she asked to make a return.

The Feasterville woman ended up driving to the Macy’s at Oxford Valley Mall.

“It’s an inconvenience,” said Orr, 35, who works in tech support, as she got a refund at a  women’s department counter at Oxford Valley, near Langhorne. “Coming here is a bit further out, but I have no choice.”

Other shoppers across the region are feeling the pain as well.

The clock is ticking on four area Macy’s stores slated to close by March 31. Besides the one at Neshaminy Mall in Bensalem, the others are at Moorestown and Plymouth Meeting Malls, and Voorhees Town Center. All stopped taking returns Feb. 5. 

The closures reflect "Macy’s previously announced real estate strategy to streamline our store portfolio,”  spokeswoman Elina Kazan said this week. She urged customers to try nearby Macy’s stores in Oxford Valley, King of Prussia, and Cherry Hill, as well as macys.com.

But it’s clear the next few months will be focused on preparing the stores for closing and finding new tenants.

Signs throughout the Macy’s at Neshaminy Mall, leased by parent Macy’s Inc., say it all: “Nothing Held Back - Entire Store 40% to 60% Off Inventory Clearance.” General Growth Properties (GGP)  owns the mall.

Macy's Inc. owns the Moorestown store, but the mall is owned and developed by Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust (PREIT).

Macy's also leases the Plymouth Meeting store; that mall is also owned by PREIT.  Joseph Coradino, PREIT’s CEO, said recently that entertainment and dining options were being considered for that space but no definite plans had been made.

The Voorhees Town Center store is owned by Namdar Realty Group of Great Neck, N.J., and the space is leased by Mason Asset Management Inc., a division of Namdar.  Both declined to discuss closure plans.

Lackluster fourth-quarter 2016 results released this week did little to ease analysts’ concerns for the company, which plans to close 68 stores this year, including the four here. This comes on top of 39 stores that closed in 2016, part of a plan to shutter stores and invest in online sales.

News reports surfaced this month that Canadian retailer Hudson’s Bay Co., owner of Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor, was in talks to acquire Macy’s Inc. Neither party would comment, but observers say the talks continue. 

With a weak fourth quarter and a harsh market, "there is very little optimism about Macy’s core business despite ongoing initiatives,” wrote RBC Capital Markets retail analyst Brian Tunick. A buyout by Hudson’s Bay and a sale of Macy’s land "pose an interesting setup. However, we believe there are still too many unknowns" to invest. 

Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, had a similar view. After its last closures, Macy’s "did little to help itself with shops that remained, for the most part, uninspiring and badly merchandised," he said.  "Macy’s seems to be making very little effort on the shop floor – a position that does not bode well for the future.”

Selling assets gives Macy’s "a war chest that it can use to invest,” he said. But “it is vital that this money is spent wisely and well” on overhauling the customer experience and reinvigorating the brand.

“This is the last-chance saloon for Macy’s: If it gets this wrong, it will increasingly find itself without the resources to implement a decent turnaround and will begin a downward spiral into oblivion,”  Saunders said.

Macy's isn't the only traditional retailer getting battered. Sears Holding Corp. recently announced it was closing at least 160 more Sears and Kmart stores this year.

On Friday, shares of J.C. Penney Co. plunged as much as 10 percent after it announced plans to close 130 to 140 stores, putting some 6,000 employees on early retirement.