Shares of Macy’s, the United States’ largest department store chain and one of the most iconic chains across the world, jumped as much as 12 percent amid speculation that Hudson’s Bay approached the retail chain for a takeover.
Those close to the matter said the talks are in the preliminary stages. Hudson’s Bay, which has a market value of $1.4 billion, is dwarfed by that of Macy’s which has a market capitalization of $13.4 billion. For Hudson’s Bay, it would be akin to a snake swallowing an elephant. Only this time, the elephant could also prove to be as fatal as Macy’s, which is riddled with a debt of around $7.5 billion. Macy’s currently operates 880 stores across the United States, including the high-end Bloomingdale’s and the luxury beauty retailer Bluemercury.
Macy’s has been struggling for the past few years, evident through its declining sales. Many department stores have failed to grow their business models, which have come under tremendous pressure amid changing consumer habits and demographics. Consumers have shown a preference for fast and cheap fashion, an area where Macy’s is clearly lacking.
Although recently the department store chain started new concepts like Macy’s Backstage, which offers off-price apparel, and Last Act, its simplified clearance offering, the initiatives have proven to be a little too late for the retailer as it battles Amazon and other nimble online retailers who have been rapidly gaining market share.
The retail sector underwent one of the most difficult times last year as consumers struggled with non-existent real growth in their wages. The weak sales numbers, even with plummeting gas prices, speak volumes about the precarious position in which the industry has found itself.
One of the reasons for the dismal performance for the whole consumer retail sector is that it is overburdened with capacity. Mall traffic has been on a steady decline and while rents have been going down too, the declining traffic has aggravated the chicken-and-egg problem for the retailers to extract as much profit as possible from the declining customer base.
Last year, Macy’s announced that it would close approximately 100 underperforming stores as part of an exercise to reduce expenses and allocate resources behind strategic initiatives. The company had estimated that the initiatives would drive around $500 million in savings beginning in 2017—a sizable amount even for a giant like Macy’s.
Although Macy’s is currently performing less than in past years, the retail giant has had a storied past. The retailer started in 1858 as R. H. Macy and Co., named after its founder Rowland Hussey Macy as a dry goods store in Manhattan.
Hudson’s Bay has had an equally storied past as North America’s oldest trading company, which once owned almost a quarter of Canada and was created by a Royal Charter in 1670 by King Charles II. The company owns some of the most recognizable retail brands in the United States like Gilt Groupe, Lord & Taylor and Saks Fifth Avenue.
While it is believed that a takeover between both retailers could streamline operations by consolidating the administrative and executive staff for the two companies, it is widely believed that Hudson’s Bay sees more value in Macy’s real-estate than in its retailing operation which could prove to be the icing on the cake.
Another possible reason for the takeover could be that Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren, who steps down this year, could hit a jackpot of more than $80 million if the company is acquired which makes him a motivated seller to an acquirer.