Gilbert will join a handful of other Valley municipalities including Phoenix, Scottsdale and Chandler when its first Macy’s department store officially opens on Friday.
The store, which had an unannounced opening Monday at SanTan Village mall, is the first of its kind for the 150-year-old retailer, said Susan Trotter, a Macy’s spokeswoman.
For starters, the store is only one level and 122,000 square feet — smaller than a typical store — making it easier to shop, she said.
It’s also designed with four entryways and extra-large dressing rooms featuring waiting areas with televisions. The store also features price-checking stations where customers can scan merchandise.
Officials also designed the store to take advantage of natural lighting with big windows and skylights. The retailer is rolling out similar stores this year in Texas, Idaho and Montana.
Store manager Mary Markichevich said the company chose Gilbert partly because of its rapid growth.
Nayla Alabado, a Chandler resident, said the store is closer to her house than the Macy’s at Chandler Fashion Center.
“I’m happy to have one over here,” she said.
She complimented the store’s open spaces and lighting.
“It reminds me of the Biltmore (Fashion Park) one,” she said of the shopping center near the Scottsdale-Phoenix border on 24th Street and Camelback Road.
Macy’s at SanTan Village is opening in one of the toughest retail environments in years and in the midst of a national recession, but Markichevich said she’s optimistic. The company studied the local market and carefully tailored its merchandise mix to draw shoppers in, she said.
George Whalin, CEO and president of Retail Management Consultants in Carlsbad, Calif., said deals between major department stores and mall owners are typically in negotiation years in advance, and Macy’s likely went forward with the opening because it was well beyond the point of no return.
“You’ve got a major investment in this store,” he said. “You can’t take that multimillion-dollar investment and leave it sitting there.”
John Corritore, president of the real estate services firm The Corritore Co., described the current situation for retailers as “the darkest hour” in years.
He said Macy’s is relatively better off than higher-tier department stores like Saks Fifth Avenue or Barneys New York, which are losing customers.
Those customers are likely choosing cheaper alternatives like Macy’s, he said.
“They might be taking that step down,” he said.
Gilbert Town Manager George Pettit said sales tax revenue from SanTan hasn’t been as strong as what he envisioned due to the suffering in the retail sector.
“But, by the same token, the mall appears to be doing very well,” he said. “With the addition of Macy’s adding to the competitive environment ... I think it’s a very positive thing.”
Sales tax dollars go to police, fire and parks and recreation in Gilbert.