Macy’s new store con­cept comes to Chicagolan­d

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - BUSINESS - By Anne D’Innocenzio

NEW YORK – A year after buy­ing startup Story, Macy’s is bring­ing the retail con­cept to life in 36 stores in 15 states, in­clud­ing its State Street store in Chicago and its Woodfield Mall store in Schaum­burg.

The con­cept, which cu­rates merchandis­e around a theme and ro­tates ev­ery four to six weeks, comes at a time when depart­ment stores like Macy’s are try­ing to re­think how to bet­ter ex­cite shop­pers who are in­creas­ingly go­ing on­line.

Many stores and malls are now ex­per­i­ment­ing with ro­tat­ing merchandis­e that hopefully will keep shop­pers com­ing back.

Macy’s first Story, called Color, opened Wed­nes­day and is an­chored by three big brands: MAC Cos­met­ics, crayon maker Crayola and jeans gi­ant Levi Strauss & Co. But the shop, awash in bright col­ors, fea­tures items from roughly 70 small busi­nesses like brightly col­ored-T-shirts, books, col­or­ful dishes, candles and candy.

At the State Street store, the col­or­ful theme made Story hard to miss. In the 1,500-square-foot space near the el­e­va­tors be­tween the first-floor cos­met­ics and jew­elry de­part­ments, the walls and floor were cov­ered with bright blocks of color, with items grouped by color on some racks.

Most of those items aren’t sold else­where at Macy’s and won’t be avail­able on­line. Each Story shop will also host events, like cal­lig­ra­phy work­shops and Easter egg paint­ing, be­fore adopt­ing a new theme ev­ery cou­ple of months.

It’s a lot of hands-on work for a con­cept that’s a small piece of the store, but Casey Costin, Macy’s direc­tor of spon­sor­ships and part­ner­ships, said it’s not all about sales. “This is about the ex­pe­ri­ence and em­brac­ing new­ness.”

The typ­i­cal Story shop car­ries about 400 items with an av­er­age price of about $20. Most of the items are im­pulse buys that shop­pers don’t need, like a pizza cut­ter shaped like a bike or uni­corn-themed socks.

Macy’s is also play­ing up the ex­pe­ri­ence. It plans events in­clud­ing work­shops that teach cus­tomers how to de­sign cus­tom patches for their denim jack­ets. At 30 Story con­cept shops, shop­pers can create their own makeup palettes at MAC sta­tions.

In­dus­try watch­ers are closely watch­ing Macy’s part­ner­ship with Story, which was founded by Rachel Shecht­man. Shecht­man has nearly 300 em­ploy­ees now ded­i­cated to the Story con­cept and is work­ing on other projects that will help bring more in­no­va­tion to Macy’s.

Macy’s CEO Jeff Gen­nette said he hopes the Story con­cept will get ex­ist­ing cus­tomers to shop more fre­quently, while also at­tract­ing younger cus­tomers. But Gen­nette says that hav­ing Shecht­man, who joined Macy’s in the new role of brand ex­pe­ri­ence of­fi­cer, is help­ing Macy’s think out­side the box.

“This is not go­ing to change the tra­jec­tory of Macy’s, but it does change how we are per­ceived,” Gen­nette said. “It’s help­ing us re­think how we can go much faster and more at the speed of the cus­tomer.”

Gen­nette de­clined to es­ti­mate sales for Story con­cept, but he be­lieves it can be just as suc­cess­ful as Shecht­man’s store in lower Man­hat­tan, which is clos­ing with the open­ing of the Her­ald Square shop.

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