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The CEO of Macy’s says it’s harder for an e-commerce giant to conquer offline retail than the other way around

Amazon is going to try. But will it work?

Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette onstage at Code Commerce 2018
Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette
Keith MacDonald for Vox Media
Shirin Ghaffary is a senior Vox correspondent covering the social media industry. Previously, Ghaffary worked at BuzzFeed News, the San Francisco Chronicle, and TechCrunch.

The last decade of retail has seen brick-and-mortar stalwarts like Macy’s move into e-commerce, while e-commerce giants like Amazon slowly expand in physical retail. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy for everyone, says Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette.

“I think it’s more difficult for an internet star to go into brick and mortar than the other way around,” Gennette said, speaking onstage at Code Commerce in New York with CNBC’s Courtney Reagan.

Since succeeding longtime CEO Terry Lundgren last March, Gennette has shaken things up at the legacy department-store chain, closing dozens of locations while investing in projects aimed at luring more foot traffic, like in-store VR experiences and running pop-up stores for niche brands.

But it’s important to keep a balance.

“You see the investment that brick-and-mortar retailers are willing to make in order to be more competent online, and that is a voracious level of funding,” Gennette said.

But: “What all retailers are figuring out is that you can’t starve your home base of brick and mortar while you’re taking care of what your needs are going to be online.”

It’s early, but so far Gennette’s strategy seems to be working. Like many other major retail chains, Macy’s has beat expectations in recent quarters, despite growing competition from online retailers like Amazon (which is expected to overtake Walmart this year as the No. 1 apparel seller in the U.S.).

Watch the full interview below:

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