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Transformation Nation: A Comparison of Department Store Survival Plans

As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. And never has the need for new ideas been greater for retail than it is right now.

Faced with secular changes in consumers’ shopping habits and the lightening quick speed at which technology continues to transform every aspect of commerce, change is the only option for any retailer hoping to survive.

That’s a tall order for any business but department stores have a particular challenge given the size and scope of their operations, which aren’t exactly designed to pivot on a dime.

In the face of plummeting sales, store closures have been the first line of defense to help cut overhead. But surgically removing 138 doors here (J.C. Penney) and 100 doors there (Macy’s) is merely a Band-Aid, not a prescription for long-term health.

Looking to the future—if there is to be one—these stores must develop actionable plans designed to address today’s consumer that are flexible enough to adapt to tomorrow’s innovations. Throughout the year, most of these stores have been actively touting their transformation strategies. For some, it means diving deeper into existing categories that are performing well, while others are more focused on diversifying with new products and services.

Without a crystal ball, it’s not possible to predict which of the majors will make it, but a side-by-side analysis of their plans might provide some insights. Use the arrows above to click through to see how each department store’s plan stacks up.