Macy's is adopting a strategy from more than 100 years ago to save its business

Department Stores See Bright Future in NYC
Department Stores See Bright Future in NYC

Macy's is closing dozens of stores amid an overall decline in department store shopping.

And now, the retailer might be turning to a century-old strategy to drive sales: opening restaurants, retail expert Warren Shoulberg writes on industry website The Robin Report.

Macy's has an upscale Italian restaurant called Stella 34 Trattoria at its flagship store in Manhattan. Menu items include $22 plates of mushroom linguine and $57 sea bass for two.

The strategy is one that was common 100 years ago, according to Shoulberg.

"Those first merchants of retailing knew what today's generation is having to relearn: that retail stores are more than a place to buy stuff. They are the centerpieces of communities, focal points where people gathered for special occasions, to mark moments in their lives and to celebrate," he writes. "And oh, while they were doing all of that, maybe they bought a new shirt or a frying pan.

Related: Take a look inside Macy's flagship NYC store:

The restaurants attracted shoppers to the store. Once they were there, it was more likely they would buy something.

Macy's is also in the process of opening more discount stores.

CEO Terry Lundgren told CNBCthat the brand is planning to put some of the "Backstage" stores in its existing retail locations this year.

The stores will sell Macy's brands at steeply discounted prices — up to 80% off. This model copies highly successful brands like TJ Maxx and Nordstrom Rack.

The outlet locations would serve as a test of whether the store's new discount outlets will take business away from the higher-priced traditional stores.

"We have to make stores more productive — all of us box stores," Lundgren told CNBC. "Customers buying online have got to find more reasons to visit."

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