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Macy's report: Is projected death of brick-mortar stores premature?

Macy's CEO Jeff Gennette is under no illusions when evaluating the country's retail business climate and the competition his historical American company faces.

"This is the most competitive retail environment that I've ever seen," he stated last week in tandem with the release of Macy's first-quarter results for 2018.

In a word, the company' bottom line for that period was impressive (a 4.2% jump in sales). Moreover, it surprised many business analysts.

Pundits have been sounding the death knell for so-called "brick and mortar" retailers that have occupied prime real estate in malls and shopping centers in New York and across the nation for decades. Broad-based empirical evidence shows that changing consumer preferences and the rise of shop-from-your-laptop entities like Amazon have been eroding physical stores' profits for some time.

Given that warning trend that distinctly threatens brick-mortar establishments, Macy's recent numbers come as a pleasant surprise to many principals in the embattled industry. One national report on the standard bearer's quarter-one performance notes that "there's still plenty of hope as the [traditional retailing] sector evolves and transforms itself."

What Macy's has most obviously done to make inroads on the competition is to focus hard on making the shopping experience more consumer-friendly.

For example, the company has revamped its loyalty program and plans to adopt a number of strategies that imbue the shopping experience with new technological interaction. Customers will soon be able to pay for purchases with their smartcards. Virtual reality shopping (picture, literally, this sofa in your living room) is on the near horizon. So too are departments that routinely rotate their look and feel in a manner reminiscent of art displays.

Other retailers and industry analysts are watching. Some of them who applaud Macy's proactivity say that the company will likely need to make additional and even more robust changes to continue thriving in a cutthroat industry.

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