Macy’s Looks to Make Shopping Eventful

Discussion
Apr 02, 2010

By Tom Ryan

Like others, Macy’s has scoured for cost-savings during the recession.
But one area apparently spared has been its event marketing, such as its annual
Flower Show that started this past weekend.

Under the theme, "Spring Is in the Air," about 35,000 varieties of
flowers, plants and trees floral landscapes are being displayed over the next
two weeks at five Macy’s stores: Herald Square in New York City, Center City
in Philadelphia, State Street in Chicago, Downtown Minneapolis and Union Square
in San Francisco. The indoor gardens will cover a quarter-million square feet
while also featuring hot air balloons, giant bugs, biplanes and kites hovering
above. Free guided-tours with flora experts will be offered every hour.

Macy's Flower ShowSpeaking to NY-1, Robin Hall, the show’s executive director, said the
flower show, which Macy’s been holding in some form since 1947, brings
guests closer to the Herald Square store.

"It’s the only show that we have that actually happens in the store. We
have the fireworks and the parade, that all happens outside. This one actually
brings people in," said Mr. Hall. "We can share the beauty of the
architecture here, but we can also transform it with these beautiful, beautiful
flowers."

Also last Sunday, Macy’s held its 13th annual Petacular Fair. Over
100 pets in costume strutted with their owners down a runway as part of a ‘Pets
on Parade’ fashion show in front of its Herald Square flagship. Hosted by the
famous drag queen Lady Bunny, the event also featured Sadie, the Scottish terrier
winner of recent Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show; a theater show; a kids book
reading; an animal trainer; and cast members of the 101 Dalmatians Musical.

Macy’s also holds numerous similar-sized smaller one-off events as well
as regular fashion shows, culinary events and celebrity appearances at its
stores. Its two signature events are the Thanksgiving Parade (since 1924) and
the 4th of July Fireworks (since 1976) that both get national broadcast coverage.
Other major annual events include the Passport fashion show that supports HIV/AIDS
research (last year it was presided over by Elizabeth Taylor); its Glamorama
fundraiser held in Minneapolis and Chicago; the Puppet Theater show; as well
as Santaland at Herald Square, and the Tree Lighting ceremony in San Francisco.

Discussion Questions: How much of a differentiator is the production of
small and large store event marketing efforts for Macy’s? With the consumer
focus on value, should Macy’s be cutting events to apply to the cost of good?
Should other retail chains try to compete for the public’s attention on this
level?

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14 Comments on "Macy’s Looks to Make Shopping Eventful"


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Bob Phibbs
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

I’ve been to the Macy’s Flower show and it is quite spectacular. The overlooked aspect of this is the employees. For a brief time, they get to work in a garden. The problem I’ve witnessed? Jaded employees who bring no excitement to the event. This is an underutilized event, in my humble opinion. To truly move the needle, customers who throng the flagship store should be met with the same wonder and excitement as the customers gazing at the flowers.

Carol Spieckerman
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

I’m thrilled to see Macy’s embrace the one thing that can truly differentiate them from the rest: events! Exclusive brands alone cannot be a differentiator when everyone else has them (as we all discussed a while back). The trick will be to take these events (or mini versions) chain-wide and leverage its My Macy’s localization platform to tailor the events to local tastes and/or tie them in to local businesses. If they could pull that off, Macy’s will finally stand for something.

Susan Rider
Guest
Susan Rider
11 years 1 month ago

This is an example of engaging the customer and building loyalty. This kind of event marketing truly works, although it’s hard to measure.

We can go back in history to the Macy’s store windows in New York every year. How many people go to Macy’s just to see them and spend some cash? My friend asked her Grandson, “Where do you want to go Christmas shopping?” “Macy’s of course.”

Wal-Mart in some of their rural stores also does some of this…community Easter Egg Hunt, Santa arriving with live remotes, ice cream eating contest, etc.

Marge Laney
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

Macy’s should cut events to apply to the cost of service! Gimmicks may attract attention and get people into the stores under the guise of great service and a wonderful experience, but once there, disappointment sets in rapidly. I often hear retailers say that their clientele are unsophisticated and don’t require service. Actually, it’s not that they are unsophisticated, they simply have no expectation for service because they have never gotten any. At the end of the day, shoppers exchange service for lower prices.

Dick Seesel
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

The flower show at the Dayton’s downtown Minneapolis store (one of Macy’s predecessor “nameplates”) was an annual event that served to draw traffic and establish Dayton’s as the Twin Cities’ “headquarters” store. It’s important for Macy’s to maintain this kind of event marketing around the country — not so much as a traffic-builder but as a way to repair and maintain the kinds of relationships it damaged when it changed these retailers’ names to Macy’s in the first place.

Doug Fleener
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

Events draw traffic. Traffic creates opportunities. Opportunities result in sales. What’s there not to like in events?

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
11 years 1 month ago

People generally like events. They are enhancements. That’s one big reason sporting events are so popular in America. Events are entertaining and tend to add a little quality excitement to one’s life.

The trick for Macy’s is converting “event-motivated” people into buying customers during such events. That’s where the opportunities are … more so than in cutting costs further.

Whatever its strategy, a chain such as Macy’s can enhance its visit-desirability by putting brightly-colored flowers in their stores buttonholes.

Aaron Spann
Guest
Aaron Spann
11 years 1 month ago

I think events are great and, as said earlier, they are one way to set Macy’s apart from other retailers. The one problem: Macy’s has 800+ stores across the country. How does a Flower Show in 5 select cities benefit a customer in Alabama or Arizona?

Macy’s needs to find a way to make every store special at least once a year, which is a very difficult task when you have so many stores (and overlap in many cities). Maybe they could identify one location as a regional flagship and host special events, like a flower show, there.

Kudos to Macy’s for at least keeping a special event in the 5 downtown locations listed in the article. They did leave some out though: Houston, Pittsburgh, St Louis, Miami, Cincinnati, Seattle… why are these stores not deemed important enough to host a special event? If you want to consider yourself the one-and-only Nationwide Department Store there are certain expectations (spoken or not) which exist.

Stacey Silliman
Guest
Stacey Silliman
11 years 1 month ago

Good thinking by Macy’s. Years ago, department stores set themselves apart by offering events marketing (Hess’s in Allentown, PA). Customers love these events and look forward to them.

Ted Hurlbut
Guest
Ted Hurlbut
11 years 1 month ago

I think events are a critical component of any successful marketing initiative by retailers to connect with their customers, but to be effective these events have to have direct relevance to the shopping experience. Events like this one by Macy’s are all well and good, but afterward the customers is still left with the relatively undifferentiated experience of shopping in a Macy’s store.

Joel Warady
Guest
Joel Warady
11 years 1 month ago

For retailers to continue to differentiate themselves, tying their brand to large scale events is a smart thing to do. While I don’t commend Macy’s often, sponsoring the Flower Show is a great use of their money, and is a great way to create a stronger tie with its customer through emotional branding.

Kenneth Allan
Guest
Kenneth Allan
11 years 1 month ago

These events are KEY to Macy’s, provided they want to stand apart from the sterile confines of stores like Kohl’s and JC Penney. They are a throw back to what made department stores pillars of their communities, and the center of commerce.

Other key events staged by Macy’s include the annual Holiday Light Show, Dickens Village, and daily organ concerts at it’s Center City location, located in the famed John Wanamaker building.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

Macy’s has been frequently and sometimes savagely criticized – rightly IMHO, but only time will tell – for cutting back on “the little things” (gift wrapping, restaurants, basic maintenance, etc.) so please tell me this suggestion to eliminate the one remaining touch of grace and civility was meant to run yesterday as an April Fool’s joke. The Flower Show costs relatively little, and it does produce benefits: it got Macy’s a(n all too rare) positive mention in RW, didn’t it ??

Robert Craycraft
Guest
Robert Craycraft
11 years 1 month ago

Well done, Macy’s. I was at the Union Square store when this opened Saturday night, and it was fantastic. Events are one of the last ways department stores can still make themselves destinations and special places versus giant clothing stores, but to the comment above, EVERY Macy’s store should have some flexibility and a modest budget to have at least one local/regional event each year. Why not a cherry blossoms-themed event in DC, for example? Hundreds of thousands of visitors are in the downtown area over a three-week period. It would be a fantastic opportunity for exciting window displays, special events, etc., in the downtown (5 floors) DC store.

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