Macy’s Unveils Story in 36 Stores

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IMG_1573 A year after buying concept store developer Story, Macy’s unveiled the format today (April 10) across 36 locations in 15 states, including a 7,500-sq.-ft. section in the flagship Herald Square store in New York.

“This [Story] an opportunity to test something in 36 stores before rolling out to scale,” said Macy’s Chief Experience Officer Rachel Shechtman, who founded Story in 2012. “It is not just the transaction and consumer experience.  I think there are a lot of strategic opportunities.”

The Story sections average about 1,500-sq.-ft and contain about 80 vendors (Herald Square has 90) across apparel, handbags, cellphone covers, drinkware, electronics, cosmetics, stationery and other products. Most stores will have Story on the first floor near the cosmetics and footwear departments; the flagship New York location is on the mezzanine level, with some product and signage by the main floor escalators that lead to Story.

The Crayola x Levi’s collection via licensee Haddad Brands (t-shirts, jean jackets, sweatshirts) continues Story’s strategy of “sponsored” collaborations that were at the heart of its  2,000-sq-ft. location in lower Manhattan. In addition to the Levi’s apparel, other Crayola products (markers, paints, construction paper) and licensed items (Royal Sock’s color-in socks) were scattered throughout the department. Estee Lauder’s Mac Cosmetics brand also has a sponsored section for creating eye shadow colors and palettes.

At the New York store, there also is a Crayola-branded area for adult craft classes. Overall, Story has about 300 events planned across the 36 locations, ranging from flower bouquet design with local florists to creating Crayola Mother’s Day cards.

The Story departments use local suppliers.  For example, at the New York location, Brooklyn-based I Made That Bag is producing custom hand and tote bags, while Primary Clothing (which sells largely online) launched its first brick-and-mortar infant/toddler collection. There also is a section with New York-themed products, something that will eventually be replicated to feature cities in other markets, says Story COO Jenny Shechtman.

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Levi’s x Crayola collaboration

“We wanted to attract new partners and have them say ‘Macy’s might be the partner we are looking for when we are operating at scale,” Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette said at the New York launch today. “We want to take our existing customers and get them into our locations with more frequency and attract new customers at the same time. Story will improve the agility of the company.”

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Story Founder Rachel Shechtman and Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette

Said Jenny Shechtman: “For us the conversation was… about agility at scale. It is not easy. If you want to open one or two of these, that is not necessarily a testament to how the organization is changing and being nimble. But if you open 36 of these on the same day and update them every three months…. Macy’s has challenged itself to be nimble and work with smaller vendors on tighter time lines.”

Story has its own buying and creative staff, but shares many of the back-office functions with Macy’s including finance and logistics.

The new department will continue Story’s tradition of rotating sponsored collections, such as the ones the company had previously done with Peanuts, Nickelodeon and 20th Century Fox’s The Greatest Showman film. The collections will rotate every 2-3 months vs. 6-8 weeks that was the norm at Story’s standalone space in Manhattan, says Shechtman. The Crayola sponsorship runs through June, when the capsule with Levi’s officially launches chainwide. The turnaround for the sponsored section will be shorter at Macy’s:  3-7 days, against 7-10 days at the Story location in lower Manhattan, says Shechtman. The initial discussions about a Story format inside Macy’s began about eight months ago, and construction was in 4-5 weeks.

“It will be more about creating the moments for each” sponsored collection and “less about square footage” dedicated to each display, says Jenny Shechtman. “For us the conversation was… about agility at scale. It is not easy. If you want to open one or two of these, that is not necessarily a testament to how the organization is changing and being nimble. But if you open 36 of these on the same day and update them every three months…. Macy’s has challenged itself to be nimble and work with smaller vendors on tighter time lines.”

Story has its own buying and creative staff, but shares many of the back-office functions with Macy’s including finance and logistics.

The majority of Story locations at Macy’s will have an 8-10 person staff with a manager, but the Herald Square department has a 25-person staff and four managers. There is little overlap between the brands Macy’s carries in the main store and those found in Story, save for Levi’s and Mac Cosmetics.

The Story departments also will serve as a test bed for new products that could eventually make their way into the main Macy’s store, Shechtman said. Story also may also eventually work with The Market@Macy’s format, which is expected to be in 20 Macy’s stores this year and contains B8ta’s retail-as-a-service platform that allows for setting up store-within-a-store formats featuring new brands and products. Macy’s bought a minority stake in B8ta last year.