Macy’s Testing Self-Serve Beauty Concept

Discussion
May 04, 2010
Tom Ryan

By Tom Ryan

Macy’s is debuting a new self-serve beauty department in select stores
around the country. The concept, which coexists with beauty counters, showcases
aisle displays of smaller brands, many of which are entering Macy’s for the
first time.

According to a report in Women’s Wear Daily, the assisted,
open-sell concept, called Impulse Beauty, is currently in around 15 locations
although plans call for another 40 by the close of the year.

The most distinctive feature of the roughly 1,000 square-foot concept, according
to the report, is a series of black gondolas with white lettering identifying
each category. Brands within the concept include Smashbox Cosmetics, Laura
Geller, Laura Mercier, Dior, Stila, H20 Plus Products, Philosophy and Bliss.
An aisle labeled “skin care” features StriVectin, Hylexin, Cosmedicine
and MD Skincare. A few hair care brands such as Frederic Fekkai are also included.

The concept allows smaller brands to gain a presence inside a department store
at a lower cost since Macy’s funds the employee staffing the sections. Margins
for the beauty brands are somewhat lower than traditional in-store cosmetic
counter shops.

But observers also told the fashion trade paper that Macy’s Impulse represents
a response to a growing crop of open-sell beauty retailers, ranging from Sephora
to Ulta as well as more upscale pushes by the mass market, such CVS Pharmacy’s
Beauty 360 and Duane Reade’s Look Boutique. Shoppers are also buying more beauty
products online and through home shopping channels.

“Its customer has been leaving Macy’s to buy cosmetics in other places,” one
executive, who distributes to Impulse Beauty, told Women’s Wear Daily. “What
used to be alternative [distribution] is now mainstream. The boundaries have become blurred because the customers’ shopping habits have changed so much.
Everyone is shopping everywhere.”

Discussion Questions: Should department stores offer more self-service
options within their beauty departments? What do you think of Macy’s Impulse
Beauty? In what other ways might department stores reinvent beauty departments
to better serve consumers and ward off competitive threats?

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10 Comments on "Macy’s Testing Self-Serve Beauty Concept"


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Carol Spieckerman
Guest
11 years 5 days ago

So Macy’s develops a self-serve beauty concept years after Nordstrom did the same thing and at least several months after everyone from dollar to drug has either spun off stand-alone beauty concepts (CVS’ Beauty 360); doubled down on in-store boutique environments (Duane Reade’s Look Boutiques which no doubt were one of the jewels in the crown driving Walgreen’s acquisition of DR); or completely re-visioned the mass beauty experience (Walmart’s front-and-center beauty cocoons and Target’s upscale-ish equivalents). Shoppers have fled department store beauty departments in droves and Macy’s is going to woo them back? Macy’s bashing has become sport (right up there with Sears) for some and I’ll have to join the team on this one. Way too little and far too late.

W. Frank Dell II
Guest
11 years 5 days ago

What made the department store different was exclusive brands and great customer service. With a few exceptions in high-end departments, these stores are mostly self-service today. This means they are not much different than any other retailer.

While it might make sense to sell more products without assistance, where will the cashier be? This appears to be a downgrading of a key factor supporting the higher prices being charged.

John Norris
Guest
John Norris
11 years 5 days ago

What impact does self-serve have on shrinkage versus an associate-staffed area?

Stacey Silliman
Guest
Stacey Silliman
11 years 5 days ago

No one has the time to wait in line at Macy’s for a customer service rep to give you the shade of Dior lipstick that you want. That’s the beauty of Sephora. I have often walked out of the Macy’s in Herald Square and walked across the street to Sephora to get the small items I need. Time is money. Good going Macy’s with the self-service concept. It’s long overdue and needed for them to stay competitive in a highly changing marketplace.

Anne Bieler
Guest
Anne Bieler
11 years 5 days ago

The results should be interesting, Many shoppers choose department stores over all the self-serve options simply because there will be a very qualified sales associate from the brand to help. Particularly for certain shopper groups–like those who still shop in department vs specialty stores, more mature clients, suburban shoppers; they have a different value proposition. Great service really drives purchases.

As a way to lure younger shoppers and new, smaller brands, the self-serve option may draw in these groups–time will tell!

Li McClelland
Guest
Li McClelland
11 years 5 days ago

Well, for those of us curious what Macy’s “get us written up in the news for free publicity” PR release would be for May 2010, now we know.

Ted Hurlbut
Guest
Ted Hurlbut
11 years 5 days ago

While I can’t claim any specific expertise in the cosmetics segment, it’s been pretty clear to me that the traditional model of full customer service of broad assortments of premium branded lines was no longer working. When (commissioned) sales associates no longer approach every customer even just passing by, and case displays are consistently only a third to a half full, things have changed.

As others have pointed out, Macy’s is only following a growing trend toward self-service and more focused assortments. This looks like one instance of sales associates slowly disappearing because customers no longer require or value their help, rather than simply as a cost-cutting measure.

Eliott Olson
Guest
Eliott Olson
11 years 5 days ago

As service is eliminated, so is the ability to differentiate, to guide and sell. Macy’s is waving the white flag of surrender to the cosmetic category killers. Just as the Best Buys of the world long ago knocked electronics and appliances out of Field’s-Macy’s, Sephora & Ulta type stores are obviating the need for a half-floor cosmetics category. The big question for Macy’s is, can they fight off the challenge from Target in the middle market while shedding enough space to compete with Kohl’s? Time and trends are not on their side.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
11 years 5 days ago

“…is currently in around 15 locations although plans call for another 40 by the close of the year.”

And Macy’s has what – 800+ – stores? “Testing” is exactly the right word for this, although “NOT coming to a Macy’s near you” must not be far behind.

Mark Johnson
Guest
Mark Johnson
11 years 5 days ago

Is this consistent with the brand image and persona they want to put forth?

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