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Macy’s meet Saks; Super Bowl LI ads; UPS’ bad good news: The BloomReach Relevance Report

Haven’t you worked hard enough? Of course you have. Why not sit back, relax and fill your head with the BloomReach Relevance Report?

Miracle on 34th Street meets Saks Fifth Avenue

Macy's on 34th Street in Manhattan

It’s hard to know what to make of reports that Hudson’s Bay (better known as the Canadian company that owns Saks Fifth Avenue) is looking to buy Macy’s.

OK,  no it’s not. What it says is: The department store business is as bad as everyone thought it was. True, Hudson’s Bay is in the department store biz, too, and it’s had its hard times, but nobody lately has been out-hard-timing Macy’s, which has been the poster child for ailing retailers.

No question it would be a bold move and an example of a little fish eating a big fish. And Macy’s is a very big fish — some 730 stores, Bloomberg says, about half of them in top malls.

What Macy’s really has is real estate — a lot of it and some of it quite valuable. You’ll find Macy’s at prime locations in cities like New York (the iconic Herald Square flagship), Chicago and San Francisco.

Bloomberg points out that Hudson’s Bay is a retailer and a real estate enterprise that has an interest in HBS Global Properties. The Macy’s stores would plump up HBS’s portfolio nicely, the Bloomberg piece says.

The Motley Fool is down with the real estate theory, pointing out that Macy’s real estate is worth many times the market value of the company itself. That fact could even lead to a scenario in which Hudson’s Bay buys Macy’s and then leases its stores back to Macy’s, MF says. What a world.

Macy’s meantime has been doing everything short of chopping up the furniture to burn in the fireplace for warmth. The company has announced that it’s closing 68 stores and laying off more than 10,000 people — or at least eliminating 10,000 jobs.

Bloomberg says the moves would save Macy’s more than half a trillion dollars in 2017, money that could be diverted to e-commerce, China and other retail divisions.

Department stores have had it rough lately, as empowered consumers relentlessly demand bargain prices and stores comply, feeding something of a death spiral. There are also the pressures brought on by e-commerce, eroding loyalty when it comes to brands and the rise of niche players with unique propositions.

It’s not clear yet what fans of Macy’s (or Hudson’s Bay for that matter) think of the rumored relationship, but the stock market is happy. Macy’s shares jumped 12 percent during the trading day Friday.

Alexa? Help me sell stuff

Amazon Echo, aka Alexa

Amazon has taken another step in hearing the voice of the customer — this time literally.

Marketing Land reports that Amazon has created a developer’s hub for advertisers and marketers to build apps for its Echo voice-recognition device. By now you are probably familiar with Echo, aka Alexa, the handy household assistant that will make shopping lists, play radio stations, tell you the news and weather and play Jeopardy with you.

Now Alexa is turning her attention to helping those who sell stuff sell it to you. The Seattle online seller has created an Alexa Skills Kit to help developers come up with apps (Amazon calls them skills) and has provided ways to connect with agencies that are experts at tracking how consumers interact with Alexa.

The move is a sign both of Amazon’s relentless drive to corner every market in every way possible and the coming importance of voice search. The Marketing Land story says several analysts reported that Alexa ordering really took off during the most recent holiday shopping season — “skyrocketed,” is the word ML used.

“Alexa: Make me some money.”

UPS says OOPS on earnings

UPS Tractor Trailer at Brooklyn Army Terminal

You’d think setting a record for package deliveries would be good news for a company like UPS, which is in the package delivery business, but, well, not exactly.

Yes, Internet Retailer says, UPS moved a record volume of packages in the fourth quarter, also known as the holiday shopping season, but it turns out many of them were gifts being shipped to residential addresses. And home is not where the big money is, UPS CEO David Abney explained on a call to tell analysts what Brown could do for investors, Internet Retailer reported.

Residential deliveries tend to be shipped via less expensive services than business-to-business shipments, the IR story says. And, as it turns out, UPS saw a big bump — an 11.5 percent increase — in residential deliveries in the quarter. In all, home delivery accounted for 55 percent of UPS’ delivery volume, the story said.

Overall, UPS volume increased by more than 7 percent in the fourth quarter. It was up 4.6 percent for the entire year, IR said, and residential deliveries accounted for 63 percent of the company’s deliveries.

If you look at the traditional holiday period, from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve, UPS moved 712 million packages (a record), which was a 16 percent increase over holiday 2015, Internet Retailer reported.

For fans of e-commerce, there was a bright side to UPS’s good-news-bad-news quarter. (Does that mean it was a good-news-bad-news-good-news quarter?) The surge in deliveries was caused by a surge in e-commerce sales.

The channel continues its torrid growth rate.

For companies like UPS (and FedEx and the United States Postal Service) what that means is buckling down and figuring out how to make money from those home deliveries.

The Super Bowl of commercials is, well, the Super Bowl

old television set

What kind of newsletter would the BRRR be without mention of the Super Bowl, on this, the eve-ish of the Super Bowl?

So hey, Super Bowl LI kicks off (get it) on Sunday and advertisers are lining up to pitch their stuff to biggest television audience of the year.

Remember when people watched TV? We digress.

Anyway, there is good news for Super Bowl advertisers, CNBC reports. CBS is offering advertisers who buy a minute for $10.4 million a discount. Yep. Two free seconds. (Yes, for free, the amount of time it took you to read this sentence!)

The $10 million ads aren’t just for the Super Bowl, of course. As CNBC points out, the ads, which also cost a mint to produce, run on the web for days, if not weeks before the big game. (We dare you start calling it Super Bowl Lee.) And they’ll run for weeks after on both television and the web

Back in the day the content of the ads was shrouded in secrecy — all the better to build suspense and spring surprise on the SB audience. Now the idea is to get the spots out there early and very, very often.

All of which means there is no danger in heading to the fridge during the commercials. They will live on and on in a digital infinity.

Quote of the week

“We’ve said all along we make buying decisions based on performance. In this case, based on the brand’s performance, we’ve decided not to buy it for this season,” — Nordstrom to The New York Times, explaining its decision to drop Ivanka Trump’s brand.

Photo of Macy’s and UPS truck by Mike Cassidy. Photo of Amazon Echo courtesy of Amazon. Photo of television by Everyone Sinks Starco (using album) published under Creative Commons license

Mike Cassidy is BloomReach’s storyteller. Contact him at; follow him on Twitter at @mikecassidy.