Walls once stocked full of new merchandise now lay bare except for the shelf hooks. Even the clothing racks have been removed from the spacious white interior that used to be Macy’s department store. All of the Macy’s logos and affiliated brand labels have been effaced from the South section of the Oaks Mall building, save for a faint outline where the letters formerly hung. Only the signs announcing the final clearance sale on the entrance doors give notice to shoppers that a Macy’s ever existed there.
The Oaks Mall Macy’s began its closeout sale to vacate the department store in early January 2018. Shortly after, on Jan. 11, Dillard’s released a statement disclosing its purchase of the anchor location, and though the renovations won’t be completed until November, the transfer can begin now that Macy’s physically relinquished the space on March 25.
The termination of the Gainesville location was toward the end of 100 planned store closures announced by Macy’s, Inc. in August 2016. The 11 additional cutbacks reported this year concerning the retailer’s venues are expected to save it nearly $300 million annually as Macy’s develops its online shopping enterprises, according to Macy’s press release.
“Macy’s, Inc. has been reviewing its real estate portfolio across the country to see if there are opportunities to improve the use of our assets. After careful consideration, Macy’s has decided to close Macy’s Gainesville store,” said Jacqueline King, Macy’s South media relations manager, in an email.
The closures will result in a total of nearly 5,000 job cuts nationally, according to Macy’s press releases. The seven Macy’s locations that were closed in Florida have impacted over 500 employees.
However, Gainesville’s Macy’s says they’ve taken pains to preserve as many employees as possible by relocating them to nearby Macy’s stores. The closest Macy’s is 35 miles away at Paddock Mall in Ocala.
“Wherever possible, we will place employees in good standing in open and available positions in a nearby store,” King added. “Regular, non-seasonal employees who we are unable to place at nearby locations will be eligible for severance, including outplacement resources.”
The Oaks Mall’s Dillard’s has also absorbed employees let off during the store’s closure.
Oaks Mall Dillard’s store manager Ryan Brown said his department store has accepted about 20 Macy’s employees during the transition and expects more will come now that the location has officially shut down.
“We hope to accommodate whoever we can from Macy’s during the closing process,” Brown said. “We know how hard it can be for personnel, so we’re doing what we can to take care of those in our Oaks Mall community. We’re excited to welcome them into our department.”
Employees on the floor at both Macy’s and Dillard’s were unavailable for comment. A spokeswoman from Macy’s human resources office said that employees were not permitted to be interviewed and that any questions should be addressed to Macy’s media relations.
“In general, when a retail or department store closes, the employees are provided only the benefits or severance pay agreed upon in their contract, which is determined by the company,” said Chelsea Connor, director of communications at the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store International Union (RWDSU). “The Macy’s at the Oaks Mall isn’t unionized, so there aren’t any special provisions they can go after legally if their company decides to lay off employees.”
“There is no legal mechanism in Florida legislation that compels them to provide for their workers or guarantees that employees can seek benefits from their employers after they’ve been dismissed or quit voluntarily,” continued Connor. “Under Obamacare, they may apply for coverage federally or seek unemployment as needed.”
Todd Van Hoosear, senior vice president of marketing communications for the Gainesville area chamber of commerce, said that Macy’s closing should have minimal impact on other Gainesville businesses.
“It’s our understanding that a good percentage of employees have been retained in one function or another, transferred to other nearby Macy’s locations or have found opportunities elsewhere,” Hosear said in a phone interview. “The overall strength and health of the Oaks Mall is still very good, and occupancy rates are high for business tenants.”
An Oaks Mall management office spokesperson said that they are sorry to see Macy’s go, but are enthusiastic for the expansion of Dillard’s.
Brown said that Dillard’s footprint at the Oaks Mall is currently about half of the size of an average Dillard’s and carries a fraction of the brands.
“By absorbing Macy’s spot, Dillard’s will grow from 98,000 to about 180,000 square feet, with plenty of space to introduce some of the high-profile brands we weren’t able to before.”