By Mike Allen
September 11,2023 (Santee)-- Santee’s Trolley Square will offer a bit of upscale shopping when Macy’s takes over the now vacant Bed Bath & Beyond space starting in November.
“They told us they’re shooting for Black Friday in November,” said Pam White, Santee’s economic development manager.
This Macy’s won’t be the same kind found in most of the regional shopping malls. Instead, it will be a scaled-down format the national chain has been testing for several years and that has garnered some success.
That's a big change from the flagship Macy's store in New York City, once billed as the world's largest department store.
The Santee store will measure about 30,000 square feet, or about a fifth of the size of a standard Macy’s. “They are trying to have a smarter, leaner model that focuses on merchandise lines that are selling well,” White said.
Those products include fragrances, make-up, handbags, jewelry, men’s, women’s and children’s apparel, she said. “What you won’t see is furniture, home goods, bedding, and kitchen appliances,” she said.
While Macy’s has rolled out smaller format stores elsewhere, the one in Santee will be the first in California. Asked why the company decided to locate the initial store here, White said, “I attribute it to Kimco (the Trolley Square center’s owner), and the strength of that center.”
Zach Blatteis, Director of Real Estate for Kimco Realty in San Diego, said "This represents a significant victory for the center and community, as we proudly unveil this innovative concept store from an iconic American brand, tailored to the tastes and preferences of our modern-day shoppers."
Macy’s operates eight stores in San Diego County, in Mission Valley, Fashion Valley, University Town Center, La Mesa, National City, Chula Vista, Escondido, and Carlsbad. In 2020 the company that also owns Bloomingdale’s said it was closing 125 of its stores and laying off 2,000 employees over the next three years.
Another feature of the new smaller Macy’s is offering some toys through a contractual partnership with Toys R Us.
Macy’s and other major retailers are down-sizing their stores to make it easier for shoppers to get the things they want efficiently, and bring their offerings to suburban, outdoor centers instead of the more traditional malls. In recent years Target has built smaller format stores including one in South Park, and another in North Park.
Urban malls such as now-closed Horton Plaza are showing signs of age, and not attracting the number of shoppers to keep their shops viable.
Plus Macy’s company is using cutting edge technology to drive the product offerings, according to one trade publication. In addition to tracking sales, the chain is using heat detectors to determine shoppers’ interest in certain products, and adjusting the inventory according to what items are picked up the most and are selling.
The stores will provide shoppers with spacious fitting rooms near the center that will have salespeople nearby so that they can find the right size, color or brand they are looking for or order it if that item isn’t available in the local store, according to a story in PYMNTS, a publication tracking the retail industry.
Although the latest Macy’s outlet represents a positive trend, the fact is the retail industry has winners and losers. Bed Bath & Beyond filed for bankruptcy earlier this year and shut down its seven stores in the county.
Many retailers sustained heavy losses during the pandemic, and several weren’t able to survive. Among those was restaurant chain Mimi’s Cafe, whose Santee outlet in Trolley Square remains vacant after some three years. Kimco is committed to keeping that space as a restaurant and has not been able to find a suitable replacement, White said.
But on the positive side, the longtime vacant Hometown Buffet in the shopping center anchored by Home Depot will soon be reopened as the new format Chuck E Cheese. The kid-centered restaurant chain’s parent company, Texas-based CEC Entertainment, said it’s spending $40 million to $50 million to renovate and relaunch each of its domestic outlets. The Santee location at 265 Town Center Parkway is one of the first to get the new format treatment, and a soft opening is scheduled for the end of September.