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Business/Economy

Macy’s is closing its landmark downtown Seattle store in February

  • Author: Nicole Brodeur, The Seattle Times
  • Updated: September 29
  • Published September 29

Macy's Inc.'s department store in downtown Seattle. (AP arcxhivce photo/Ted S. Warren, 2016)

SEATTLE — Macy’s landmark store at Third Avenue and Pine Street in downtown Seattle will close in February of next year, the company confirmed Saturday, ending a long history of retail and holiday tradition as its online rival Amazon has continued to grow under its own roof.

The announcement of the store's upcoming closure came one day after employees were told of the decision by the longtime retailer, which took over the block-long building at 300 Pine Street from The Bon Marché in 2003. The closure ends a 90-year run of retail in that space.

"After careful consideration, Macy's, Inc. has decided to sell the Downtown Seattle Macy's building," Blair Rosenberg, Macy's director of corporate communications, said in a statement. Rosenberg's statement did not detail the reasons behind the decision to sell.

Clearance sales will begin in January 2020. The store will close at the end of February.

“The decision to close a store is always difficult, and we look forward to continuing to serve our customers at nearby Macy’s Bellevue Square, Alderwood, Southcenter and the Redmond Furniture Gallery, and online at macys.com,” Rosenberg said.

The downtown store will continue to operate through the 2019 holiday season, Rosenberg said. However, this year the 161-foot high Macy's star that is lit annually to mark the start of the holidays in Seattle will not shine. The star is in need of repair, Rosenberg said.

"That said, we are happy that the new property owner has committed to displaying a reimagined star for the Seattle community to enjoy beginning in 2020," Rosenberg said. It was not immediately clear if Rosenberg was referring to Starwood Capital Group, the Connecticut-based firm that owns the majority of the building.

The store still plans to "ring in" the season on Nov. 29 with the 29th annual Macy's Holiday Parade and fireworks show.

"We look forward to working with the Downtown Seattle Association to transition these beloved traditions," Rosenberg said.

Store employees first learned of the closing Friday morning in a regular staff meeting. An employee who was present said people were "aghast. I mean, their jobs are gone and there isn't much in retail anymore."

Shoppers were equally surprised. On Saturday afternoon, Laura Heydrich and her mother, Linda, sat on a couch in the furniture department, mulling a purchase. They were glad to be sitting down when told of the closing.

"Wow. I can't believe it," said Linda Heydrich, who lived in Seattle for many years before moving to Bellingham.

Said Laura Heydrich: "My first thought is, is it closing for the same reason Bartell's is closing?" she asked. "The crime?"

Last week, the locally owned drugstore chain announced it was closing its Third Avenue and Union Street location early next year because of the neighborhood's crime rates and the city's regulations on businesses.

"I come in (to Macy's) when I get prompted, like when there's a gift with purchasing makeup," Laura Heydrich said. "The homeless people outside deter you from coming in. I feel safer at home (shopping online)."

John and May Gerstle have been shopping at the downtown Macy's "on and off" for 40 years, and were there Saturday, buying a suitcase for 50% off.

"They're being put out of business by Amazon," May Gerstle said. "It's sad. Too bad."

Karlos Dillard heard of the closing from a friend who works at Macy's.

"He's trying to figure out where he's going to go," said Dillard, who was at Macy's on Saturday with his husband, Kristopher, looking for a suit.

"He shops more than I do," Kristopher said. "But I've noticed these closings are a spiral thing."

The building that houses Macy's was declared a historic city landmark in 1988, and until 2003 was known as The Bon Marché department store, owned by Federated Department Stores. In 2003, it changed the name to Bon-Macy's; then in 2005, to Macy's. In 2007, Federated Department Stores changed its name to Macy's Incorporated.

Starwood bought four floors in the eight-story building for $65 million in 2015 and added two other floors in 2017, leaving Macy's the two bottom floors and the basement. The company declined to comment on the Macy's closure.

Two years ago, Amazon announced that it was leasing the top six floors of the building. The leased space -- 312,000 square feet -- is enough to hold about 1,500 employees.

The online retail giant now occupies some 47 office buildings in Seattle, encompassing 11.5 million square feet. It also has plans to lease or build some 2 million square feet of office space in Bellevue.

This newest closing announcement follows a national trend, as department stores that have been mainstays for generations have shuttered stores and declared bankruptcy under pressure from online competition.

Macy's announced a downsizing plan in 2016 that called for the closures of 100 stores nationwide as it shifted resources toward online and mobile shopping. The closure announcements that followed have included at least 13 stores this year, including the Macy's stores at Redmond Town Center, which closed in March, and Northgate Mall, which closed in July. Another anchor department store, Nordstrom, closed its Northgate store Aug. 9.

E-commerce is dramatically rising as a portion of total retail sales. In the most recent estimates available from the U.S. Department of Commerce, released in August, e-commerce made up 10.7% of all retail sales -- up 4.2% from the previous quarter, and 13.3% from a year earlier. Overall retail grew, but not as rapidly: Sales were up 1.8% from the previous quarter and 3.2% year-over-year.

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