Will more consumers listen now that Macy’s has a new STORY to tell?

Discussion
Photo: Macy's
Apr 11, 2019
George Anderson

When Macy’s acquired STORY, the experiential concept that changes its theme and layout every four to eight weeks, the goal was to bring the same merchandising magic and excitement into many of the department store’s locations. At the time, many were unsure if Macy’s management would let STORY be STORY, and if the concept would scale within the department store environment. The answer to both those questions is about to be answered.

Yesterday, Macy’s announced the launch of 36 STORY store-within-a-store concept shops in 15 states. Each shop will measure around 1,400 square feet and the initial “Color” theme  will feature more than 400 carefully curated products from local, national and international brands such as Crayola, Levi’s Kids and MAC Cosmetics. STORY will change the theme of its shops “every few months,” according to Macy’s.

“The discovery-led, narrative experience of STORY gives new customers a fresh reason to visit our stores and gives the current Macy’s customer even more reason to come back again and again throughout the year,” said Jeff Gennette, Macy’s, Inc. chairman & chief executive officer, in a statement.

Rachel Schechtman, founder of STORY and Macy’s brand experience officer, called the launch of the concept inside the chain’s stores part of “a reimagined approach to cross-functional collaboration.”

Will more consumers listen now that Macy’s has a new STORY to tell?
Photo: Macy’s

She said STORY hired more than 270 managers as well as STORYtellers to participate in Macy’s new “Know + Tell” experiential training program to prepare for the launch of the concept. The program included a deep dive into what it takes to be successful in every part of the business, including building fixtures, engaging customers and event production. (Three-hundred events are planned for the Color launch.)

Will more consumers listen now that Macy’s has a new STORY to tell?
Photo: Macy’s

Ms. Shechtman and Macy’s brought in a variety of outside experts to create an unforgettable experience that customers will want to document for posterity.

“The STORY at Macy’s experience feels a lot like a real life version of scrolling through Instagram. You discover things you weren’t looking for but are inspired by all the fun finds — the second you see it, you need it,” said Ms. Shechtman. “We aspire to create that feeling with the breadth of the narrative-driven merchandise edit we are bringing to life with the launch of STORY.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see the STORY launch inside Macy’s as the start of something big for the chain? How will the success or failure of the STORY concept affect Macy’s approach to other parts of its business?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"If Macy’s wants to get customers excited, STORY will need to scream its story, otherwise it could be viewed by shoppers as just another pop-up."
"The “discovery led, narrative experience” offers uniqueness for shoppers and brings the personal experience of digital engagement..."
"With the launch of the initial STORY concept departments, it’s clear that Macy’s is willing to take some chances on a decent scale. For that they should be applauded."

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25 Comments on "Will more consumers listen now that Macy’s has a new STORY to tell?"


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Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

This is a step in the right direction – thought it’s but one step on a journey of many, many miles. In other words, unless Macy’s changes other aspects of its proposition this isn’t going to have much impact. As a department store, Macy’s has to make all categories interesting and engaging, it can’t just rely on one small section to draw in footfall.

All that said, I like the thinking behind STORY. I like the fact Macy’s has embraced something new. I just hope the fresh thinking will be expanded to the rest of the business.

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust

I have been bullish on this since Macy’s bought the company. The question is solely, can Ms. Schechtman lead the concept to scale? If she can, and if the “story” is compelling, it will reinvigorate a very tired experience.

Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

The STORY concept is interesting, but the question is, can it scale? Macy’s acquired STORY and now it’s time to do something with it. The key issue is scalability – implementing the STORY concept across an enterprise retailer like Macy’s will be a significant effort. I’m skeptical that they can, but that’s why you experiment. If STORY is successful, good for Macy’s; if STORY is not successful, Macy’s will keep moving on to the next idea. Failure is just another version of learning.

Dick Seesel
BrainTrust

1,400 square feet in a limited number of stores won’t move the needle, but might be a meaningful test case for Macy’s to reinvent other elements of its business. In the heyday of the traditional department store, a lot of volume was driven by big ideas, key items and storytelling across merchandise departments. The experience is now more homogenized, despite efforts toward localization, so STORY is a small step in the right direction especially since it’s not limited to Herald Square.

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust

Brilliant. Retail is emotion, and STORY creates emotion, desire, imagination and entertainment. What more can you want as a retailer? I see this strategy of an “imagination-retail” mentality finding its way (even in small ways) into every department, becoming present through the entire store. I predict that a lot of retailers will learn many lessons here.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

STORYis going to help Macy’s reset their bearings. STORY is the high-profile newsworthy event here. Obvious fresh, fun, new product every two months. On the one hand it’s retail 101, and on the other hand it’s big news. It’s a mini-destination on its own. But to Neil’s point, this mentality has to be made more obvious in more categories. More emphasis on fresh, fun and new and less emphasis on what POS discount sign is on what fixture that day. And of course “Sale” is embedded into the retail dynamic these days, but “Sale” is not a differentiator. Story can be.

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

STORY made money by being paid for the time a brand was up. Finding pockets of trained employees can be good, but one has to wonder how having better trained employees in some of the known money-making departments would’ve been a smarter move.

Patricia Vekich Waldron
BrainTrust

Couldn’t agree more, Bob! STORY had a completely different business model. Curating and executing from scratch at scale to inspire a tired department store is a difference game.

Art Suriano
BrainTrust
I commend Macy’s for the attempt and see STORY as something unique and attention-getting. However, unless Macy’s can afford to put a STORY department in every store, I do not see it making much difference. Furthermore, the bigger issue with Macy’s is the continued problem of shopping in a big store where there is practically no assistance. Ever try to pay for something in a Macy’s? Which register is open is your first question followed by does anyone work here? Macy’s has been scratching their head on how to build their brand when the first answer that is so simple to see is investing in staff and doing everything imaginable to wow your customers. It’s okay to invest in new ideas like STORY and in-store technology but department stores of any decade saw success primarily from the people that worked there and interacted with the customers. A large store like Macy’s where customers can roam and see no one, counters closed, registers unopened, full departments with no associate present does not provide an excellent customer… Read more »
Dick Seesel
BrainTrust

I accompanied my wife dress-shopping in the iconic State St. (Chicago) store, and the contrast to Nordstrom’s service level couldn’t have been more stark. Is there anything more elemental to a retailer than figuring out how to take the customer’s money?

Dave Bruno
BrainTrust

This new experience checks a lot of the right boxes: visually arresting and Instagrammable, event-driven experiences, locally-curated assortments, and it’s all influencer-endorsed. I will be watching closely to see how people respond to the store-within-a-store experience, as it feels like it could be at risk of losing some cachet being located inside another store, versus a standalone location.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

I don’t get it. STORY is wildly Instagrammable so why isn’t @Macys or @STORY all over it? There is no mention on @Macys, @STORY posted about it yesterday but hadn’t posted anything at all since January. The hashtag #STORYatMacys has 150 posts. When something is touted as a “real life version of scrolling through Instagram,” Instagram it!

Dave Bruno
BrainTrust

Totally agree, Georganne. Where is the social media firepower behind this? Without it, the cachet will definitely be lost….

Mohamed Amer
BrainTrust

The energy and driving force behind the STORY concept takes a radical departure from the traditional tenets of retailing as it unshackles the imagination and creates a sense of wonder. The juxtaposition within a department store, even a progressive one such as Macy’s, will further differentiate the offering and experience. This will become a destination and the new conversation at and about Macy’s.

By itself, the STORY concept cannot make a significant impact on the company’s financial results; however, taking learning cues from it and judiciously applying to wider merchandising and presentation strategies can truly re-imagine the department store as we have come to know it. There’s new DNA in the department store gene pool, and that is a good thing!

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

First of all a confession. I am Rachel Schechtman’s greatest fan. I loved STORY and I love her fresh approach to retailing. But I continue to be a bit bearish about the STORY/Macy’s marriage. I fear it may be a case of too little, too late. Because, while I have every confidence in Rachel, I’m just not sure customers will wade through the miles of private label goods, continuous discounted product, and generally unavailable, disengaged employees to get to her oasis of retail renaissance. I’d like to see Macy’s give Rachel an entire story to re-imagine. As for the notion that anyone will go to Macy’s in search of, ” … an unforgettable experience that customers will want to document for posterity,” I’m wrestling with this, unless posterity is, indeed, a synonym for Instagram.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

I do see the launch of STORY as being significant for Macy’s, and I applaud the retailer for trying new things. Rachael Schechtman has created something unique to retailing and I want to see it succeed at Macy’s.

We in the industry are watching what happens here with great interest, but I wonder how many consumers outside of NYC know what STORY is about. Until the press release hit there hadn’t been a lot of buzz here in Chicago where two STORY at Macy’s are located. @Macy’s Instagram has made no mention of it or the 300 events planned for the Color launch either. If Macy’s wants to get customers excited STORY will need to scream its story, otherwise it could be viewed by shoppers as just another pop-up.

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust

Any time retail management gets so incredibly literal about executing what retail futurists tell them is important, I become concerned. That concern is heightened the more I chuckle at the silly naming used for employees around STORY.

Still, if I pull back to a very high level and squint, there may be value to Macy’s in having 1,500 square feet of space in each store constantly revolving. It can give a freshness to what’s going on there. However, they will have to fight against the literalness of “telling a story” at the execution level.

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust

With just 36 locations, this is a great start for STORY at Macy’s but it’s still just a first step – an experiment. Macy’s needs to move beyond the experiment quickly, and embrace the concept at all their locations. The positive here is the dedication being shown to making these 36 locations work. It’s clear there has been some significant operational and organizational change brought about to support this launch. If that can be replicated company-wide and truly transform their store operations completely, then there is a light at the end of the tunnel! This is the latest sign that Macy’s really wants to redefine what a department store is all about. They need to move quickly, and continue this momentum, along with b8ta, Market @ Macy’s, Backstage, VR furniture shopping, etc. and really transform all of their stores. If they can do that – there is a bright future ahead for them, otherwise, it’s just another experiment.

Anne Obarski
Guest

What’s your story? Every business needs to know it and make it repeatable. A knowledgeable staff who can share this new “story” and be available to make this new shopping experience “contagious” will make or break this new program. Are they budgeting for training and increased exposure of employees? Will they designate employees to keep everything stocked and inviting every hour of every day? This is more than a new brand, it’s maintenance and marketing.

Lee Peterson
BrainTrust

To me, this whole journey with STORY is baffling. Isn’t what STORY does something that department stores should’ve been doing all along? Didn’t they used to put together great curated “stories” with fantastic displays and merchandise from anywhere that fit the message? (Think Simon Doonan.)

So now, a department store has hired (bought out) someone that does what they should’ve been doing to teach them how to do something they actually invented but intentionally forgot how to do. Huh? Put this down on the long “reasons to not exist” list that department stores have so diligently been compiling over the last 10 years. Baffling incompetence.

Steve Dennis
BrainTrust

When Macy’s bought STORY last May I had mixed emotions, as I shared in this Forbes article.

On the one hand, to emerge from the boring middle, Macy’s clearly has to try a lot of new and remarkable things. On the other, prior to being bought by Macy’s, STORY was interesting but hadn’t scaled. It was also unclear whether Macy’s would really let Rachel Schechtman’s creativity run free.

With the launch of the initial STORY concept departments, it’s clear that Macy’s is willing to take some chances on a decent scale. For that they should be applauded. Only time will tell whether as a new idea STORY at Macy’s can move the dial. But even under the best circumstances Macy’s has plenty of other work ahead in its journey from boring to remarkable.

Karen S. Herman
BrainTrust

Kudos to Macy’s for giving the store-in-store format exciting new possibilities with STORY. What do I like about this launch? Practically everything. Macy’s is offering experiential shopping that is highly curated and supported with a well-trained staff. The merchandise is a mix of local, national and international brands, offering a wide range of appeal to shoppers. The “discovery led, narrative experience” offers uniqueness for shoppers and brings the personal experience of digital engagement with platforms like Instagram and Pinterest to life. And, the launch is significant with 36 STORY concept shops in 15 states. Way to go, Macy’s!

Scott Norris
Guest

They’re putting one of these at the Ridgedale Mall on the west side of Minneapolis because it has plenty of space available, but not the traffic-leading Rosedale and/or Mall of America locations? If you want to make a splash, you use the Mall of America!

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

Same story — literally — same response: yes, nice, but….

By all means Macy’s should experiment, but even taking this as only a test, I’m curious how counter sized shops in about 5% of their stores are going to do much for the other ~100M gsf they operate. And of course they need to get people into the stores first … an ongoing challenge.

Chris Ostoich
Guest

At a minimum, it’s good to see Macy’s implementing something that looks like change. Additionally, something that feels differentiated from their peers. The idea of the store being an ephemeral experience might work to draw consumers in, but the real magic will come out if they manage to keep the evolving story relevant as time goes on.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"If Macy’s wants to get customers excited, STORY will need to scream its story, otherwise it could be viewed by shoppers as just another pop-up."
"The “discovery led, narrative experience” offers uniqueness for shoppers and brings the personal experience of digital engagement..."
"With the launch of the initial STORY concept departments, it’s clear that Macy’s is willing to take some chances on a decent scale. For that they should be applauded."

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