A terrific opportunity for the store, the employees and potentially the consumer, assuming their training also places an emphasis on delivering a great customer experience. Too bad Macy's doesn't have such a program....
A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, being a salesperson in a store was a respected position. Salespeople were professionals, built success upon building relationships with their clientele and had a knowledge of the products and services that they sold. If you could study the individual employee cost to the revenue they generated the ROI would most likely astound you. Stores (and no doubt their bean-counters) lost track of this, preferring to see their employees as cattle or cost rather than the life's blood that they were.
These same bean-counters shifted dollars from people to advertising, put price over service and predictably caused the erosion of retailing largely through a total lack of user experience, a standardization of merchandise, and run-down and tired properties. Sadly, this point of view could be applied to these store's approach to their buying and merchandising personnel as well. No wonder that speciality retailers stores are seeing more popularity (you should see what incubators are able to achieve in the OTR section of downtown Cincinnati). Some vision, commitment, and investment in people could go a long way to reversing the decline of sales in many stores.
If there is a high level of abuse then address the reasons why before embarking on a widespread policy change that may hurt the brand's perception among customers. Imagine the reaction just in the social network universe alone! Share of wallet is under assault -- don't put it further at risk with a new PR nightmare.
Why are we discussing questions any rational retailer or consultant already knows the answer to? As a publicly-traded company, it is unlikely that politics trumped (pun intended) sales data. This is probably the least Presidential thing the man has done thus far ... but, hey, that list is growing.
This reeks of familiarity, and remember how that turned out? Mr. Lundgren knows the evolution that needs to take place and, given appropriate time and assuming we don't undergo another economic meltdown, will most likely get the company there.
Ask yourself: were the reasons for management's decision to make this move motivated by the customer or by their own self-interest? In the "buy local" culture of today, driven largely by the recession but also by "farm to table," do customers really care about national return policies, singular advertising synergies and creating buying efficiencies?
And at the same time, where is the excitement for going into a big box store anymore? Where are the Marvin Traubs and the vision for making shopping a fun and exciting event?
Today's department stores are in a sale price-driven race to the bottom.
Saks has a challenge -- they have exhausted potential DMAs for their full-line stores and lack a strategy for smaller, less affluent/dense populations. Delivering single product categories may be the best solution for the "best" customer category in these under-served secondary markets. It may also reduce cannibalization from the existing full-line locations. It also requires a lot less capital investment at reduced operating costs.
My confusion arises from the branding; why not use the name people already recognize and like?