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    Macy’s hopes Backstage will put it back in the spotlight

    A Macy's Backstage opened last year at Providence Place mall in Rhode Island. 
    Stew Milne/AP Images for Macy’s/File
    A Macy's Backstage opened last year at Providence Place mall in Rhode Island. 

    Macy’s is going all-in on the treasure-hunt style of shopping, hoping that deal-seeking shoppers will help its bottom line. On March 24, the retailer plans to open its first Massachusetts Backstage store in Marlborough at the Solomon Pond Mall. Backstage will operate as a separate store inside Macy’s existing location.

    It’s an experiment of sorts for the beleaguered company, whose revenue has dropped by $3 billion over the last five years. Backstage’s seek-and-ye-shall-find model mimics other off-price shopping brands — including T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, and Nordstrom Rack — which offer a frequently changing assortment of discounted products, and a more hands-on approach for shoppers. 

    Like other anchor department stores, Macy’s has struggled to compete in shifting retail landscape and has been losing market share, according to Coresight Research. A recent report from the retail think tank found that many Macy’s shoppers have been switching their spending to lower-priced merchants like Walmart, Kohl’s, and T.J. Maxx, or they’re buying from Amazon and other online retailers. 


    That’s led Macy’s to slough off excess real estate — it announced in 2016 that it intended to close about 100 underperforming stores. 

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    Backstage has been viewed as a possible solution to those brick-and-mortar woes. The company currently has 52 locations nationwide, and plans to open another 100 stores this year. In a recent earnings call, Macy’s chief executive Jeffrey Gennette called Backstage a bright spot, saying stores with a Backstage location inside them have seen sales rise as much as 7 percent.

    “Our existing customer is spending more when you have a Backstage in that building,” Gennette told analysts. Shoes and home goods, he said, are among the biggest sellers.

    “Backstage’s focus on value and newness guarantees that with each visit, shoppers will find an amazingly-priced assortment of recognizable brands and trends,” Macy’s senior vice president of off-price, Michelle Israel, said in a statement.

    Backstage shops inside Macy’s stores are scheduled to open in June in the Emerald Square Mall in North Attleborough and at the Mall of New Hampshire in Manchester, N.H.

    This Minibar will deliver to your house


    There’s a new way to order booze — and bartenders — in Boston.

    The alcohol delivery company Minibar  just launched locally, offering beer, wine, and spirits from liquor stores in Cambridge, Beacon Hill, the South End, and the Financial District. The four-year-old company, which is headquartered in New York and operates in more than 30 cities, will go head-to-head with the locally-based alcohol-delivery pioneer Drizly. Female Founders Fund and Winklevoss Capital are among Minibar’s venture backers. 

    Company cofounder Lara Crystal got her start in the e-commerce realm as a founding member of Rent the Runway. Her cofounder, Lindsey Andrews, had worked at Fresh Direct and They met at Penn’s Wharton School of business, and came up with the idea for their company after ordering take-out one night and wishing that their wine could also be delivered.

    “I was selling sexy dresses and she was selling dog food and diapers,” Crystal joked. But they saw an opportunity. “There hadn’t been any modernization of any retail experience for alcohol for the last 50 years,” Crystal says. 

    Crystal says she’s not worried about entering Drizly’s turf. “Our brand is a little bit mature in terms of who it’s speaking to,” she says. The average customer is in his or her 30s, and about half of the company’s market is female. Their purchasing habits tend to skew toward buying wine. 


    That’s led Minibar to begin offering features that are more wine-oriented, like its Vineyard Select service, which allows shoppers to order bottles from independent wineries (mostly in California) whose products are hard to find in local stores.  

    The company also offers bartenders on call. Customers can book requests for cocktail specialists to come to their events and mix drinks. “It came out of customer demand,” Crystal says.

    We’ll drink to that. 

    Have an item for the Talking Shop column? Janelle Nanos can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @janellenanos.