Only a few days ago, US biggest department store chain Macy’s announced the closing of 35 to 40 underperforming Macy’s stores in early 2016. Sadly, this is not an isolated event: from 2010 until today, the retailer has closed 52 stores, compared to 12 store openings during the same period and the forthcoming debut of six Backstage stores this fall –Macy’s newest concept of bargain stores-. All in all, the figures are negative and hint at the rough times that the department store chain is going through. Macy’s operating income totaled $436 million for 2015 second quarter ending on August 1, compared with an operating income of $571 million for the same period last year, provoking a full-year 2015 guidance reduction for comparable sales to be approximately flat, in contrast with previous guidance for growth of approximately 2 percent. “We are disappointed in our second quarter results,” stated chairman and chief executive Terry J. Lundgren in a corporate statement.

For better or worse, Macy’s is not the only one doing badly. Despite a wider product portfolio of fashion, beauty products, furniture and electronics, UK department store Debenhams scored a total operating profit of £128,6m in financial year 2014, compared to £155,4m the year before –no data has been released for financial year 2015 yet-. “Performance in the first half was impacted by lower than expected sales in our UK clothing business before Christmas,” argued Debenhams’ chief executive Michael Sharp in an interview within the correspondent annual report.

These developments are nothing else than a clear message on how the consumer’s behavior in terms of shopping has changed swiftly in the last years, a paradigm shift that puts mid-range department stores at crossroads. I see these retailers being overwhelmed by mainly three factors.

First, the exhaustion of the catering-for-all-tastes retail floor formula, originated gradually due to the growth of online fashion platforms that offer features like free returns and own content with styling advice. Besides online competition, another reason not to continue catering for all is the rise of concept stores –with a filtered and intensively-sourced product assortment that seeks the highest harmony with a specific customer profile that the shop has analyzed and is targeting since its conception. Secondly, mid-market department stores should work intensively on the experience offered to visitors by bringing unique fashion products and mixing them with other hard-to-source gadgets. I ask myself at this point why almost no collaborations between department stores and specific brands happen while team-ups between brands and international concept stores pop up frequently? Perhaps marketing departments need a serious wake-up call. Eventually, the store experience must naturally be paired with an outstanding customer service, and this can only be achieved through investment in HR. The more knowledge on up-to-date trends a store assistant has, the more efficient this individual could be helping and assisting a client with a purchase.

Buying fashion today basically means exclusivity, differentiation and status. Mid-range department stores can learn a few lessons from their upscale colleagues in this field: Nordstrom newest avant-garde designers’ store-in-store concept space was recently presented and undoubtedly aims at attracting regular- and new customers. Earlier this year, Selfridges presented a cutting-edge genderless pop-up shopping area under a project called Agender project. It definitely introduced the transgender theme in the fashion agenda. Innovation is high in demand these days in fashion, and even old glories who have been in the game for several years struggle with creativity in order to maintain their reputation, their visitors’ frequency and, last but not least, the earnings.