NEW YORK (Real Money) -- Maybe Macy's (M - Get Report) had more days between Thanksgiving and Christmas than other retailers did? Maybe their stores had better weather than did other national chains across the street?
You have to shake your head at first when you examine the Macy's numbers, because they, alas, seem too good to be true. That's especially given the odd contrast of Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY), the consistently good retailer that reported disappointing earnings Wednesday night and posted comparable-store sales that were almost literally half of what Macy's was able to bang out.
However, when you have sat down with CEO Terry Lundgren as many times as I have done in the last few years, you know that Lundgren saw a lot more changes coming to retail than just about anyone else did -- including Bed Bath, for that matter.
Lundgren, who is one of my Bankable 21 -- the 21 CEOs in Get Rich Carefully that I say you can bank on to win for you -- understood something crucial. Namely, if Macy's was going to be a successful and prevail as a 21st-century retailer, it was going to have to change radically.
That's why he looked at the universe of stores and decided that Macy's could go national on purchasing clout from suppliers, but that it needed to stay local when it came to customers' needs. I think a lot of the skeptical investor class didn't believe Lundgren when he stressed his "My Macy's" initiative, which entailed bolstering local sales by having the amalgam of department stores atomize into the local roots that had once predominated.
Remember, Macy's was initially cobbled together in an almost automaton way: A bunch of local retailers were gathered under one nationwide roof. That was an excellent business decision when it came to the ability to wrangle with such names as VF Corp (VFC) and the PVH (PVH), but it wasn't so strong in when it came to any attempt to distinguish Macy's from the pack of similarly stocked competitors. So Lundgren reinvented the paradigm in a way that companies like Sears (SHLD) or Kohl's (KSS) or Wal-Mart (WMT) or Target (TGT) can only hope to do: Macy's has tailored the merchandise for the locale. It's working.