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Macy’s Gets Personal to Compete With Web Sales

Holiday shoppers crowd the sidewalk at Macy's department store in New York on Dec. 23, 2012
Holiday shoppers crowd the sidewalk at Macy's department store in New York on Dec. 23, 2012Photograph by Victor J. Blue

In a holiday season compromised by Hurricane Sandy, the fiscal cliff, and unseasonably warm winter weather, Macy’s stands out as the role model for traditional retailers trying to level the playing field between the store and the website.

The department store handily beat Wall Street’s estimates, with a 5.5 percent sales bump during the most recent quarter, the payoff for a multiyear investment in physical renovations, enthusiastically integrating mobile technologies, and its “Magic Selling” program, which coached its employees to be friendlier and to help tailor merchandise to local preferences. Macy’s secret? Unlike other struggling retailers trying to remake themselves—J. C. Penney and Best Buy come to mind—Macy’s transformation has engaged, and been guided by, its employees.