Macy's Ready To Make Merry With Celeb-Studded Effort

Macy's is unleashing a new holiday ad, a celebrity-studded affair that is the latest in its "Magic of Macy's" campaign.

Like other ads in the campaign, the spot pokes a little bit of fun at the decorating skills of celebs like Sean John designer Sean "Diddy" Combs and designer/singer Jessica Simpson. We even get to see Donald Trump wrestling with tree lights. Other celebs, who have just one night to get the store decorated for the holiday, include Martha Stewart, Usher and Emeril Lagasse.

There's even star power behind the lens. The ad is the first national TV spot ever from director Barry ("Rain Man," "Diner") Levinson. And Bob Richardson, another Academy Award winner, directed photography.

The ad will first be available at beginning Sunday and on other video sharing sites beginning Thursday, breaking on national TV on Nov. 4.

Despite its lighthearted message, Macy's is facing some grimmer realities as it heads into the holiday season. More than a year after switching 400 former May Co. department stores to the Macy's nameplate, the company is still struggling to find the right marketing formula. Back in May, it named long-time employee Peter Sachse CMO, replacing Anne MacDonald, the high-profile Citibank exec it had hired to oversee marketing for the newly merged company.



Recently, Macy's posted a same-store sales decline of 2.7% for September, and predicted that October's same-store sales will also be blah, coming in between a gain of 2% and a decline of 1%.

Still, many experts have been predicting a big comeback for mid-scale department stores. And with $27 billion in sales, obviously plenty of people are still shopping at Macy's. A recent J.D. Power and Associates survey of customer satisfaction at department stores reports that Macy's ranked above average in the midscale category. (Interestingly, though, it did not score as well as Kohl's.)

But it looks like that comeback may not happen this year either, with more consumers crossing stores like Macy's off their lists before they even start shopping. The National Retail Federation recently polled consumers and found that 58.2% of shoppers plan to buy at department stores versus 61.6% last year.

Some industry observers are predicting a fourth quarter that is a big disappointment to all retailers.

"The problem is not necessarily unique to Macy's, and it's sweeping through the retailing universe," says Kurt Barnard, publisher of Barnard's Retail Trend Report. "We'll find very soon that consumers are buying a lot less on impulse and restricting purchases. And when you mix in the fact that they are bored with department stores, there's not much incentive to go out and go shopping, except for what they really need."

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