After the 98th year of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, there’s a question that needs to be asked: will it live to be 100? The New York based department store spends an estimated $13M to put on the world’s largest parade every year, going towards everything from property taxes to helium— never mind the growing concern of a global helium shortage that could complicate medical procedures.
The problem for Macy’s is that its sale of special parade NFTs does not cancel out the declining sales of department stores in the past two decades. With the rise of online shopping and shifting consumer habits, the fall of department stores will continue, especially after their struggle through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Macy’s has been following a plan to close a fifth of its stores this year, Sears has exited bankruptcy with just 22 stores left, down from 700, and JCPenney had a similar situation as well. Department stores are not all created equal, as several are not as much on the verge of death as Sears, but inevitably even those which still stand strong will fall as well.
The holiday season accounts for up to 30% of a department store’s annual sales, but more and more of those sales are moving away from these types of stores and toward online retailers. Combine that with ongoing supply chain complications that could lead to empty shelves for everything from clothes to homeware, and these stores will be in for a rough season. Shoppers already are less inclined to visit a department store, but if they know the item they seek is out of stock, they will not even think of going.
Online retailers like Amazon are fighting hard to take over, both in sales and in culture. At the Macy’s flagship store in New York City, a neighboring building has held a large Macy’s billboard reading “World’s Largest Store” for 60 years by contract. The billboard serves as the final backdrop for the Thanksgiving Day Parade. Last year, upon the expiration of that contract, Macy’s was forced to sue to stop a deal between the billboard’s owner and Amazon, who was seeking to advertise their brand right on the corner of the iconic store.
Even though the lawsuit between Macy’s and Amazon has been settled, it exemplifies the battle between the department stores and the online retailers replacing them. If that deal had gone through, this year’s parade would have ended in front of a large Amazon logo. To take over that billboard would be to take over the mantle of the symbol of American consumerism.
Amazon, however, will not give up on its quest to take control of the holidays, their traditions and American culture as a whole.
Macy’s did not respond to a request for comment regarding the future of the Thanksgiving Day Parade, but while the former world’s largest store has held on to its billboard, it may soon lose the helm of the world’s largest parade, and we may see an Amazon Thanksgiving Day Parade sooner rather than later.