This is a major weekend for Macy’s. (M)
Not only is the department store chain putting on a massive Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City that will be watched by 50 million people across the country on television, but the retailer is expecting to have its biggest sales weekend of the year, as holiday shopping kicks into high gear.
So how does the man overseeing it all, Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren, spend his time during retail’s Super Bowl weekend?
To find out, Fortune sat down with Lundgren at Macy’s headquarters in Manhattan’s Herald Square, which is featured prominently in the classic movie Miracle on 34th Street.
Lundgren will spend Wednesday “buttoned down,” getting ready for the retail storm ahead, and checking with all his direct reports since he isn’t likely to see them again over the weekend. Later, he will head uptown to the Upper West Side to watch the balloon inflation on the eve of the Thanksgiving parade. One of Lundgren’s favorites? Spider-Man.
“What’s fun is to actually be there, standing next to Spider-Man, 80 feet long and 3 stories high and laying on its side—getting a sense of how they handle that gigantic balloon in the sky,” says Lundgren.
He doesn’t exactly help inflate the balloons, which is done by machine, but hey, seeing this firsthand is one of the perks of the top job at Macy’s. After that, the Lundgren clan and family friends will have dinner for 40 at a favorite Chinese restaurant in Manhattan, as per tradition.
In the early morning, Lundgren will head down to 34th Street to take his seat at the parade’s finish line with his family, which includes his wife, their two daughters, a grandson, and some friends from out of town. After that, they go back up to the 13th floor of the Macy’s offices for a visit from Santa, for the kids.
The Lundgrens then head to their apartment to host a Thanksgiving dinner in the afternoon for 23 (the biggest one yet, he says).
“There will be a couple of turkeys this time, not just one. And a full spread,” he boasts. Of course, he needs to load up on food to have energy for the craziness ahead. But first, a Lundgren family custom. The clan will watch Miracle on 34th Street, something he has made his kids watch for 20 years running.
Lundgren will then head to Macy’s in Herald Square, the biggest store in the United States at 1 million square-feet, at 5:30 p.m. to give workers a pep talk ahead of the 29-hour shopping blitz that goes until 11 p.m. on Friday night.
“I’m there to greet my customers. I’m there because I want my employees to know that when they’re working, I’m working.” he says. He will walk through the store before opening, cheering people on and wishing them a Happy Thanksgiving. He is quick to point out that workers are there voluntarily and get time-and-a-half pay for working on a holiday.
Last year, some 15,000 people were waiting outside the Macy’s in Herald Square at 6 p.m., eagerly anticipating the Black Friday deals, and Lundgren is expecting throngs again this year.
Lundgren will be at the store from 5:30 p.m. on Thursday until noon on Friday. But the executive will not be pulling an all-nighter. He’ll use a sofa in his office to steal a couple of hours of sleep so he’s ready for the slew of interviews he will give media (including Fortune, so stay tuned) on Friday morning.
“That’s a long day,” Lundgren says. With more to come.
On Friday afternoon, he will visit a few Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s (that chain is owned by Macy’s Inc) stores in the New York area to get a sense of sales momentum after the big Black Friday rush.
Of course, all the while, he’ll be tethered to his smartphone, getting updates and projections of how sales are progressing, collecting performance data by store, department, and brand.
“We’re totally connected and I’ll have hourly updates on the business,” he says. This year, Macy’s is under more pressure to post good numbers after it reported disappointing third-quarter results and gave a diminished holiday quarter forecast.
While Thanksgiving and Black Friday get most of the attention, Lundgren will continue visiting stores on Saturday and Sunday.
And yes, for all the talk of Black Friday being diluted by earlier deals in November, it is still to the focal point of the holiday season.
“It deserves the attention it gets because it still will be the biggest volume day of the year,” Lundgren says.