On last day, Westland Macy’s customers buy up fixtures

Francis X. Donnelly
The Detroit News

Westland — On Macy’s last day at the Westland Shopping Center, some people weren’t buying clothes or cosmetics or cutlery.

They were buying store fixtures.

“Maybe I can resell it,” Mickey Shepherd said he pushed an aluminum clothes rack on wheels out the door.

This is how American capitalism ends — with a department store lunchroom microwave marked down to $50.

The Westland store, like other businesses and industries, is yet another victim of the internet. As shoppers move toward websites, they’re abandoning the malls. Macy’s is closing 68 of their 730 stores this spring. Customers who drifted into the store Sunday barely noted this would be their final visit. They were chasing bargains, not history.

“Nothing in particular,” Tasha Singer said when asked what she was looking for. “Just want to see what they have.”

The store was the picture of forlorn. The walls were empty. The floor had a football field of open space.

Everything from the second and third floor were brought to the first floor, but occupied little space. A few racks held women’s clothes.

For some reason, a plethora of rugs filled one corner of the store. Singer unfurled one but seemed unimpressed.

“Maybe if I found the right color,” she mused.

After the rugs, the next biggest inventory were the aforementioned store fixtures. Another corner of store had dozens of racks, shelves and display cases.

Among the prices: display table, $20 to $30; glass tower shelves, $150 to $200; a rolling aluminum ladder, $20 per step.

Few were being bought but at least they kept Shepherd’s son entertained. Dwayne Shepherd, 11, did pull-ups on a clothes rack.

Despite the lack of items, signs in the store exhorted customers to buy something.

“Nothing held back,” exclaimed one sign. “80 percent to 80 percent off,” inexplicably read another.

The sickly looking Macy’s was surrounded by several stores doing a robust business. Even the names of the stores seemed to be mocking the doomed mall anchor: Torrid, Champs Sports, Shoe Carnival.

But those stores may be trouble with the loss of the big department store, say retail experts. Anchor stores normally draw most of the customers to a mall. Slower mall traffic is driving more of those retailers to downsize.

Struggling Neiman Marcus is considering a sale of the company to the owner of Saks Fifth Avenue. In February, J.C. Penney announced the biggest number of store closings in its history, 138 stores in the next few months.

Six Penney locations are slated to closed in Michigan, the company said Friday: Escanaba, Holland, Houghton, Kingsford, Midland and Sault Ste. Marie.

At Macy’s on Sunday, on a day when everything seemed to be for sale, it was surprising to find something that wasn’t. Leaning against a wall, far from customers and dwindling items, was a 15-foot aluminum ladder.

Affixed to it was a note: “Not for sale, per Mgt.”

Affixed to the note, however, was a sold sticker. The only reason the ladder wasn’t for sale is because it had already been bought.


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Twitter: @francisXdonnell