At Tuesday's Bank of America Merrill Lynch Consumer and Retail Tech Conference, new Macy's CEO Jeffrey Gennette talked about the bright spots, including traffic-driving partnerships with cosmetics companies and the eyewear firm LensCrafters and the popularity of perfumes, especially those from Europe.
Macy's didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
Here are some of the bright areas for Macy's at the moment.
Editors' pick: Originally published March 14.
Gennette said Macy's has a couple of winning formulas that work in makeup.
One is a capital-investment, heavy gondola-type system whereby customers can pick up makeup off a shelf or pegboard rather than having an associate show them a sample from behind a counter. He said it's a "millennial-based, color-based portfolio, and so we've used our impulse strategy basically to deliver that."
Competitors such as Sephora and Ulta Beauty (ULTA) , both wildly popular with millennials, use the gondola system Gennette pointed out. Macy's itself employs it with its recently acquired BlueMercury brand, which makes selling more "customer-centric" than "brand-centric."
Macy's has recently tested its shoe-selling strategy to a similar arrangement so that customers can choose shoes off a rack, rather than have a sales rep fetch them from the backroom.
"We're looking right now to say, what are new models by which there could be more of a mash-up of open sell versus assisted sell? What does that look like?" he added.
Gennette said the company has developed a beauty task force with Estee Lauder (EL) that is exploring new ways to sell products.
Gennette said leasing store space out to other retailers has led to hits and misses (one miss being with Men's Wearhouse parent company Tailored Brands (TLRD) ), but the "home run" has been the eyeglass store LensCrafters that attracts customers who need to return more than once.
"What we love about LensCrafters is it brings traffic into the building. It takes two or three visits to consummate a full appointment," he said. "And it really is in our wheelhouse of designer frames with a service."
He added that Macy's goal is get LensCrafters in "500 doors," but there has been an interesting hitch. Optometrists aren't as abundant as Macy's would like. "Frankly, we're taking all of the graduating classes right now, and it's going to take us a full year to basically have enough to satisfy the expansion [plans] that we have."
LensCrafters is owned by Luxottica Group, S.p.A (LUX) .
"Whatever the roster is of new offerings in the European fragrances particularly, Macy's is going to be there. And we're the big delivery system for that in the country," said Gennette. "I get really excited when Chanel is going to have a new fragrance because it just means lots of happy customers in my stores. That's a model that we're not reinventing, because it's working really well for us."
It probably doesn't hurt that many of Macy's stores in urban areas attract travelers from around the world, including Europe.
One of Chanel's latest fragrances for women is a redo of its trademark N°5 , the original created in 1921 by French designer Coco Chanel. The latest, introduced last year, is called N°5 L'EAU.