Here’s What Macy’s Says Is the Worst Pain Point for Shoppers

March 13, 2018, 3:37 PM UTC

If you’ve ever found yourself stuck in a long checkout line at Macy’s (M), tapping your feet and looking at your watch every two seconds, please know the department store operator’s CEO feels your pain.

As part of Macy’s ongoing efforts to improve its business and build on its first quarter of comparable sales growth in three years over the holidays, the retailer is testing out mobile checkout at some stores, with a plan to offer the service at 450 of its 650 or so Macy’s stores.

A customer would use his or her Macy’s shopping app to scan items, ring up the bill and pay it and then go to an express line at a service center. There, the shopper would present the app to an employee, who would then count items in the bag and remove security tags on the items before sending the shopper on his or her way.

“If you want to talk about the single biggest pain point in our stores right now, it’s the checkout process,” Macy’s Inc chief executive Jeff Gennette told an investor conference on Tuesday. “It’s finding the register. Is there going to be somebody there? Is there a long line of customers and how long is it going to take me to get out?”

One reader, Lisa Walters, co-founder of research firm Retail Eye, sent us this picture of a sign at the Macy’s in Bellevue, Washington:

The mobile checkout is but one initiative in an overhaul to how Macy’s stores operate since Gennette took the reins a year ago. Last month, Macy’s reported comparable sales rose 1.3% in the holiday quarter that ended on Feb. 1, its first quarter of growth since late 2014. Still, that was a tepid pace in relation to the overall retail industry’s strong holiday season and below that of rival’s such as Target and Kohl’s, putting pressure on Macy’s to keep making changes.

Last month, as first reported by Fortune, Macy’s said it was spending $1.05 billion on capital expenditures this year, or $150 million more than last year, on its stores and e-commerce. Much of that will go to initiatives such as the mobile checkout and many others that Macy’s is testing as part of its “Growth50.” That project aims to roll out things Macy’s has been trying out at a store in Woodbridge, N.J. to 50 Macy’s stores this year as a launching pad for a series of initiatives it wants to roll out to hundreds more stores in 2019.

On Gennette’s watch, Macy’s is looking to win its way back into shoppers’ graces with more exclusive product, more decentralized planning and buying at the store level and fewer but more dynamic and neater stores. He acknowledged how easily Macy’s shoppers can, and often do, go elsewhere.

“Customers have put us on notice,” he said.

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