Author: Daphne Howland
Source: Retail Dive
The department store has moved swiftly to roll out the retail concept, but risks and challenges remain.
Macy's has wasted little time in making use of its 2018 acquisition of Story, a quirky retail concept that since 2011, in New York City's Chelsea neighborhood, has partnered with retailers and brands big and small.
In what Story founder Rachel Shechtman devised as a magazine-like monthly rotation of merchandise based on a theme, the boutique created an enticing atmosphere by treating the store as a medium for discovery. If that sounds just like what a department store like Macy's needs, Macy's apparently thought so too, and bought the business last year, bringing on Shechtman as its "brand experience officer."
The acquisition was a play that Doug Stephens, author of "Reengineering Retail: The Future of Selling in a Post-Digital World," says he had encouraged Macy's board and executive team to make only months earlier. "My belief was and remains that by moving to a 'store as media' model for revenue, Macy's could augment their revenue and profitability considerably and do so without the usual inventory commitment that conventional retail involves," he told Retail Dive in an email.
Just a year or so on, the retailer has not only brought the Story concept into its Herald Square flagship, but also to 35 other stores in 15 states. Stephens — and Macy's management — isn't the only one who views it as a solid move. Shlomo Chopp, who consults with and invests in shopping centers, notes that "Story was brought to Macy's presumably to increase the viability and attractiveness of Macy's to todays evolving consumer." He also stated, "I commend Rachel Schechtman (and Macy's) for being the only new age retail guru to walk into a rigid corporate hierarchy and make them bend to her will – although I am sure that [a lot] of her ideas are on the cutting room floor."
For its push beyond Manhattan, Macy's has chosen well, according to retail analyst Nick Egelanian, president of retail development consultants SiteWorks. "Not only is the investment in Story a good one, but when you look at WHERE Macy's is locating it, they are aiming correctly right at the heart of their best stores in the best high end Specialty Retail markets in the United States," he told Retail Dive in an email. "From Newport Beach, to Union Square, Short Hills, Houston Galleria and Lenox Square, and most of the other markets they are targeting, we are literally talking about some of the best retail addresses in the United States and the world."
That must go further if Macy's hopes to regain the market share it's lost to specialty and off-price retail, experts said. "I'm glad to see them introducing the concept to an initial selection of stores. But I would also encourage Macy's not to view STORY as a mere novelty within a handful of stores but rather to adopt the STORY model for revenue as a general operating premise for ALL of their stores," Stephens said. "Macy's should be looking for opportunities to free up space in every store where they can collaborate with brands to create powerful experiences for consumers. Experiences in retail are no longer just the icing on the cake. Experiences ARE the cake.