NEW YORK — Gift giving will be critical for shoppers this holiday season, which is one reason why Macy’s CEO and Chairman Jeff Gennette said he’s “obsessed” about providing a safe, shoppable environment for those who want to buy in person.

Like his retailing counterparts, Gennette said Macy’s is anticipating “elongated demand” for holiday deals, with values starting to appear in stores and online this month. Citing knowledge of supply chain demand and shipping issues, “the customer is ready to shop early,” he said during a Retail Leadership Series webinar put on by the National Retail Federation.

Although Macy’s will be closed on Thanksgiving Day, Gennette is expecting customers to hit stores on Black Friday, and the retailer is reviewing plans throughout the chain to identify potential bottlenecks and work out solutions. Black Friday and the last 10 days before Christmas are the likely pressure points, he said.

Gennette noted that the pandemic changed much about how Macy’s has done business in the short-term, but some practices will carry over, such as moving at the speed of the customer. Among the three big jobs that resulted from responding to COVID-19 and its impact on retailing, he said speeding up decision making was one of them, often in response to consumer demands.

As more people stayed at and worked from home, the category mix shifted to home, active and luxury goods.

“Home has been charging,” said Gennette, whether it’s textiles, tabletop, housewares or big- ticket items such as furniture and mattresses. Within luxury, Gennette said shoppers are turning to products like fine fragrance, better skincare, diamonds and high-end watches. Because of online meetings, people are spending on things that can be seen from the waist up, he said.

As part of its ramped-up decision-making and business pivots, Macy’s turned to its remaining store managers — 90% of workers were furloughed — for fulfillment from stores as online orders soared. The retailer also went from a six-store curbside pickup pilot program to a fully operational one in just 18 days.

The other key focuses as the pandemic unfolded, said Gennette, were cash preservation, which resulted in the furloughs along with cancellation of most spring and summer orders and reductions for fall, and improved communications. The company implemented daily standups with teams, he said, and the board went from meeting five times a year to twice a week. Macy’s also kept in contact with civic and government leaders to gain information as well as share their needs.

During the second quarter alone, said Gennette, Macy’s picked up 4 million new customers through e-commerce, which now accounts for 45% of its business, and that’s likely to be the case going forward, he said, with online not expected to fall below 40%.

Another sector that is performing well, even though the company got into this channel later, he said, are the off-price models: Macy’s Backstage and Bloomingdale’s The Outlet Store. The plan is to add some free-standing Backstage stores as well as Backstage online.

Addressing its supply chain, Gennette emphasized the importance of Macy’s private brands, which are designed to fill holes that aren’t served by national brands. Even before the pandemic, he said, Macy’s was evaluating its sourcing to counteract the impact of tariffs, as well as improve processes. As a result, suppliers have been cut and savings implemented, such as sharing fabrics for products across gender and age groups.

Looking ahead, Gennette said the corporate comeback, with workers — Macy’s own and others — returning to their buildings, is another “topic we obsess about,” but for now the company is sticking with a hybrid work culture. He also anticipated that urban stores, like Macy’s New York flagship, will continue to be impacted by the lack of tourism and office workers.

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