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Retail’s future in post-COVID economy is subject of Brooklyn Chamber’s forum

Macy’s CEO gives a firsthand account

April 22, 2021 Brooklyn Eagle Staff

With the economy still recovering from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and about half of the city’s small businesses permanently closed, the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce hosted on Wednesday a virtual forum addressing what New York City’s retail industry will look like after the pandemic, the impact of retail on the city’s real estate sector, and the best practices for recovering retail businesses.

Jeff Gennette, chairman and CEO of Macy’s and a Brooklyn resident, presented the forum’s keynote address providing a firsthand account of the pandemic’s effect on the nation’s largest department store. He also talked about shifts in the retail industry that accelerated in 2020 and the company’s expectations for continued growth in both the digital and physical retail spheres.

While Macy’s famed Herald Square flagship store is located in Manhattan, the company has two Brooklyn locations in Downtown Brooklyn and Kings Plaza, as well as two Macy’s Backstage discount locations, one on Fulton Street and the other in Sheepshead Bay. A third Backstage is slated to open on May 1 in Kings Plaza.

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Gennette’s remarks were followed by a discussion led by Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Randy Peers on the major issues and opportunities facing New York’s retail sector, including perspectives from the National Retail Federation, Cushman & Wakefield, Urbanspace, 1010 WINS, and some of Brooklyn’s leading retail businesses such as Whisk, Greene Grape, Brooklyn Tea, Shopin.NYC, and CaribBeing.

Randy Peers, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. Photo courtesy of Randy Peers

Panelists described successful strategies for following and homing in on evolving consumer cultures, eliminating barriers between in-store and online customer experiences, unleashing technology, data, and social media to assist transacting with customers in multiple ways, and efforts to get vacant storefronts and commercial corridors back on track.

“Retailers big and small are the backbone of New York’s commercial corridors, key drivers of our economy, and essential components of Brooklyn’s vibrant and distinct neighborhoods,” said Randy Peers, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. “The skyrocketing number of storefront vacancies citywide will tell you the unimaginably difficult year it’s been for retail, but this impressive and resilient group of industry leaders can offer valuable insights for surviving, retooling, and positioning for future success.”

The front of Macy’s (formerly Abraham & Straus) on Fulton Street, Downtown Brooklyn, in a photo taken several years ago. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan

Summit sponsor Fiserv, a leading global provider of payments and financial services technology solutions, launched its Back2Business program last year in Brooklyn, and to date has provided support to hundreds of small, minority owned businesses adversely impacted by the pandemic.

“While the future of retail is dynamic, it is certain to be more digitally driven,” said Frank Bisignano, president and CEO of Fiserv and a Brooklyn native. “This gathering is an important opportunity to discuss how businesses can move forward and access the talent, tools and capital they need to succeed in the months and years ahead.”

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“The health of our retail sector is vital to the overall health of our economy,” added Diana Boutross, executive managing director of retail services at Cushman & Wakefield. “The Chamber’s retail summit focuses on how we support businesses in the borough during recovery and what role we all play in ensuring they remain viable in the future. Cushman & Wakefield is proud to be involved in this important conversation.”

The Chamber’s retail forum was supported by sponsors Fiserv, Investors Bank, Cushman & Wakefield, Macy’s Inc., Spectrum Reach, TD Bank and DIME.


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