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Did Macy’s Just Get a Little Bit of Breathing Room?

An activist investor pushing Macy’s to slice itself into separate store and digital businesses dropped most of its stake in the New York retailer.

As of Monday, Jana Partners LLC held just 760,780 shares, an 84 percent drop from the 4.6 million the hedge fund controlled on Sept. 30, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission disclosure. It didn’t hold any shares on June 30, signaling its ambition to grab a stake to get a say in the department store’s future and turn a tidy profit in short order.

Jana’s purchase of Macy’s shares came after the retailer said it expected online sales to top $10 billion by next year. The investor might have been inspired by the clever financial engineering that cleaved Saks into twin titans operating in tandem as separate companies. Activist No. 2, NuOrion Advisors, further piled on in November with its sights set on Macy’s digital makeover. That same month the chain called in AlixPartners, the brain trust behind Saks’ maneuvering, to evaluate the possibilities.

Of note, however, CEO Jeff Gennette has long championed the role stores play in the buying experience, especially as the company shifts its footprint toward off-mall locations. “The interplay between our digital and physical assets is more important than ever,” he previously told investors.

Though the Saks split seems to be working, the luxury retailer’s much smaller size makes the arrangement a simpler affair than it would likely be at a merchant of Macy’s scale. Decoupling clicks and bricks would also run counter to Macy’s Polaris strategy.

Jana Partners did not respond to a request for comment by press time.