The good, bad, and ugly of Macy’s Backstage discount stores

Macy's Backstage
Image Credit: Mike Timmermann
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All year long,‘s Michael Timmermann is sharing quick and easy ways to save money as part of our Michael Saves series. Check in every Monday as he puts new and familiar savings strategies to the test. Sign up for our newsletter to have these stories delivered to your inbox!

At one long-struggling shopping mall in the suburbs of Atlanta, an experiment is underway.

Macy’s department store has transformed about 20,000 square feet of its second floor into Macy’s Backstage, a shopping experience that caters exclusively to bargain hunters.

During a recent earnings call, Macy’s said the off-price offering is adding 6% in incremental sales to the 38 stores in which Backstage operates.

In a few months, the retailer will decide how to bring Backstage to even more shoppers in 2018.

“We believe that this strategy, which offers simplified pricing, a treasure hunt environment and lower price points, is resonating with many of our customers and adding to the Macy’s experience,” said Macy’s CFO Karen Hoguet. “We continue to test different approaches and monitor the results and expect to decide by year-end how best to expand this concept within our stores.”

What exactly can shoppers find at Macy’s Backstage? According to the retailer’s website, it features the brands Macy’s is famous for at prices so low you don’t need coupons — usually 20-80% off.

Sounds a lot like T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, Ross Dress for Less and Nordstrom Rack, doesn’t it?

I just had to see Macy’s Backstage for myself, so I drove to Gwinnett Place Mall in Duluth, Georgia, and snapped these pictures of the best (and worst) finds.

17 things I learned about Macy’s Backstage

When I entered the store, the first thing I noticed was the “Center Stage” section. Macy’s says this space features the latest trends, themes and styles, but I’m not so sure.

On the day of my visit, an ironing board, two bottles of sunscreen and a hot air popper received top billing.

Center Stage

Although brand name clothing is mixed in throughout the racks, much of the merchandise comes from Macy’s private fashion brands like Alfani, Charter Club, INC International Concepts and Bar III.

In-store signage explained that some items may be from a prior season.

Macy's Backstage women's clothing

Staged next to a random beach chair, I spotted this floor lamp priced at $59.99. It had a “compare at” price of $115. There were about a dozen lamps in the housewares section.

Kale face masks are really a thing?

The second-coolest item I found in the toys section was this custom kitchen set for $34.99. The coolest item was a Power Wheels Dora the Explorer Jeep Wrangler, but I couldn’t find the price tag.

Macy's Backstage custom kitchen

Near the checkout I saw this Michael Kors iPhone 7 case for 60% off — and it’s still more than $30! You can find a wider selection of phone cases (and lower prices) at other off-price chains.

MK phone case

Next up is the men’s shoe department. It doesn’t make a good first impression, but there were some pretty good deals on various brand name and private label shoes.

Look for the yellow price tags that say “reduced” to find some of the better bargains.

The highlight of my visit was the furniture section. Macy’s Backstage has a nice mix of indoor and outdoor furniture — and the prices aren’t bad either!

This bench was marked down from $159 to $109, with a compare at price of $230.

Macy's backstage outdoor furniture

This Michael Kors bag was a final sale item, priced at $72.06. Macy’s Backstage says final sale merchandise is sold as-is and can’t be returned. Some items may be irregular or imperfect.

Macy's Backstage Michael Kors

Here’s what a regular Macy’s Backstage price tag looks like. The comparison price is in small print and the price you pay is in larger, bold print.

Again, look for the yellow stickers! That means the price has been reduced.

Macy's Backstage pricing

When I made my way to the beauty section, I saw this display of Aveeno products. The pricing seems high. For example, Aveeno Positively Radiant Brightening Cleanser is $7.99 at Macy’s and $4.39 at Target.

Aveeno & Neutrogena at Macy's Backstage

Last Act clearance deals can be found in full-price Macy’s locations and they’re also scattered throughout Macy’s Backstage. These items have blue or yellow price tags.

Macy’s Backstage doesn’t allow the use of coupons for any of the merchandise it sells.

Last Act pricing

Most of these throw pillows were priced at about $25 each.

Macy’s Backstage has a collection of candles that rivals other off-price retailers, but the prices — $7 and up — are slightly higher than what I normally find at T.J. Maxx and Marshalls.

Macy's Backstage candles

Back in the home department, I discovered queen comforter sets for $59.99 and queen sheet sets for $39.99. Many of them had thread counts of 600 or above.

I’m not exactly sure what this is supposed to be…

Leading to the checkout, there’s a display of tempting snacks that will be familiar to T.J. Maxx and Marshalls shoppers. Macy’s Backstage even had an ice cream vending machine!


Bottom line

Macy’s Backstage is clearly a work in progress, but you can expect to see the concept expanded to additional locations next year.

The prices were higher than what I’ve seen at more popular off-price retailers, so don’t forget to comparison shop. You can use your smartphone while in the store to make sure you’re getting a true deal.

Have you been to Macy’s Backstage? Tell us what you think on Facebook and Twitter.

Check out more from our Michael Saves series:

Michael Timmermann paid off his mortgage in two years. Now, he shares his money-saving tips on his blog,
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