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 and Woodfield Mall locations.
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 an entirely 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,” she said.
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. Macy's plans events including beauty classes and 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.
Chicago Tribune’s Lauren Zumbach contributed from Chicago.