Macy's is doing all the right things—except being in a mall, analyst says

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Despite Macy’s abysmal earnings report Wednesday, one analyst said there’s not much more the department store could be doing to improve.

Jan Kniffen, CEO of retail investor consultancy J. Rogers Kniffen, said that Macy’s was making the right moves by closing unproductive stores and experimenting with discounted, off-price clothing with Macy’s Backstage. He also said the company was growing well online and on mobile.

“The bad news is they’re in the mall, and the malls are doing poorly,” Kniffen said on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street ” Wednesday. “Mall traffic’s deteriorating every quarter, every year for about 10 years now, and there’s no sign of it letting up. So it’s a really hard place to fight the battle.”

During its second-quarter earnings report, Macy’s announced it was cutting its profit forecast for the fiscal year because an oversupply of inventory caused the company to lower prices, forcing it to take a hit on profits. On Wednesday morning, its stock plummeted more than 15%, dropping to lows not seen since 2009.

Foot traffic at some of the best malls in the country peaked around August 2018 and have since started to fall, according to an April report from data analysts firm Thasos. Department stores around the country have been under pressure to grow sales, as more shoppers turn to online clothing platforms.

Because of the tough environment for mall-based retailers, Kniffen believes Macy’s is going to be the only winner among department stores targeting middle-income consumers.

The road ahead isn’t any easier, as many retailers are expected to be hit with tariffs later this year. But Kniffen doesn’t believe consumers will see an impact in prices. Instead, he thinks they’re going to be absorbed elsewhere in the supply chain, like at the factory level.

“We’re not passing this to the consumer, because the consumer is not going to accept it on apparel and accessories,” he said. “They have plenty of substitution opportunities. … They will resist and we will not see price increases coming in those categories except with very few, very strong brands.”

Earlier Wednesday, Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette told CNBC in an interview that consumers have “no appetite” for price increases. 

“We are working with our sourcing and tariff partners to mitigate the risk between vendors and our margins,” Gennette said.

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