A recent story in the New York Times reports that Macy’s is trying to win back customers by “going local.” Along with stores like Best Buy and (ironically enough) Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s is tailoring some merchandise to appeal to local tastes, from Atlanta to Seattle.
This practice might come to be called “Faux Porching,” a practice comparable to “greenwashing.” One thing that goes wholly unmentioned in the article is what happens to the profits that are raked in by the likes of Macy’s. First the local department stores killed off smaller local businesses. Then the national chains killed off the local department stores (like Rich’s in Atlanta, or a place where I recall my parents shopping, G. Fox in Hartford, CT). Those national chains are beholden above all to the relentless demands for positive quarterly returns from stockholders of Federated Department Stores, Inc., who have no particular stake in any particular community in which a Macy’s branch sets up shop. Macy’s relationship to any given “locality” is based on the aim of extracting as many local dollars as possible in order to send them upstream to New York where, severely reduced by the extraction fees exacted by Wall Street, they end up in the portfolios of “owners” who don’t really care how those profits were gotten, so long as there’s a profit to be had.
The very operation that has contributed so mightily to the destruction of the coherence of localities now props itself up on whatever meager gleanings can still be extracted through the fading nostalgia of local attachments.