The New Market By Macy’s Is Just The Same Old Story

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Market by Macy's Grand Opening Celebration

Market by Macy’s storefront in Southlake, Texas. (Gareth Patterson/AP Images for Macy’s, Inc.)


ASSOCIATED PRESS

Here we go again.  

Macy’s recently opened a 20,000-square-foot “flexible retail store format” in Southlake Town Square, Texas, with brand experience officer Rachel Shechtman at the helm. Not to be confused with its in-store cousin The Market @ Macy’s, the newly launched Market by Macy’s is a bright, open design featuring local Texas brands as well as two new house brands, Getchell’s Apothecary and Herald, a food and beverage concept.

“Meet us at Market,” the tagline states. “We’re a gathering place for all that’s good, where brands you love meet fresh faces and local friends—a go-to for shopping with a side of something more.” That something more comes in the shape of in-store events, experiences, and classes like cape making for kids, dinner clubs, yoga classes, and terrarium building.

You might be picking up on my lack of enthusiasm here. While Macy’s recently reported higher than expected fourth-quarter earnings, sales have continued to decline for the retailer, and I’m skeptical that this new store concept will do much to reverse that trend. 

Shechtman is better known as the founder of Story, a hip New York City-based rotating concept store. In 2018, Macy’s acquisition of Story—and Shechtman’s sharp marketing mind—was a great play in terms of breathing new life and new strategies into the business model. 

Story was often described as part store, part magazine, and aptly so, as Shechtman did something exceptional by creating an opportunity for what she coined “retail media.” Story was ingenious for many reasons, but primarily because it wasn’t just great experiential marketing or a great community retail experience. It was also a pay-to-play environment for advertisers. Sponsors would “buy” a brand partnership for each month’s specially curated theme—and would even pay $1 million for a holiday edition. 

Primarily, what Macy’s wanted was Shechtman’s inventive thinking, and of course, the engaged community that came with Story. So, it adopted the concept to create Story at Macy’s in locations across the United States. 

But, under the recently announced three-year strategy called Polaris, Macy’s will close 125 stores and wipe out almost half of the Story at Macy’s boutiques along with them. In a press release, Jeff Gennette, chairman and CEO, states that, “We have a clear vision of where Macy’s, Inc. and our brands, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and Bluemercury, fit into retail today.”

A clear vision of where Macy’s fits into retail. Here’s the thing: I’m not convinced, and the launch of the Market by Macy’s is a perfect example of why. 

Macy’s has been trying different strategies to meet customers where they stand for what feels like as long as I can remember, all the way back to when I worked there in 2006. Back then, we had started to roll out the concept of My Macy’s, a strategic initiative around assortment planning and getting personalization right by region. We were looking at allocation through a new empathic and personalized lens. 

Since then, Macy’s has continually searched for ways to become more personable and have an empathic customer-facing relationship. But, what it continues to overlook is how incredibly difficult that is to do for a department store, and especially for a business of that size. Now, facing a much different Gen Z customer and that customer’s desire for fresh retail experiences, it seems like Macy’s is scrambling. When you can find almost anything you want on Instagram or through a new direct-to-consumer brand, what role does a department store have to play?  

I hate to say it, but this story is actually about the cool factor—or lack thereof. Take Market. The local brands, the space, the decor and the experiences are all hip… so why isn’t that creating an edge? Macy’s is making attempts to keep up with the industry and do something original, but in an evolving retail landscape, it can’t quite understand what people want.

Market by Macy’s, Market @ Macy’s, Story at Macy’s, My Macy’s. When it comes to naming conventions, there’s a formula here.  

So, let’s turn back to the eternal question: What’s in a name? Is Macy’s as a brand enough to attract our new generation of customers—and keep them coming back?

My thought is no. And if Macy’s keeps up the obsession with name-brand recognition, it will lose out on a golden opportunity. The retail strategy at hand is more complicated than this, but let’s be frank. Does your average Gen Z shopper want to wear a logo tee with “Macy’s” on it? No. But, would they sport one of a new, trending brand that Macy’s is funding? Absolutely. 

From where I stand, Macy’s would be much better off as a funder of brands and to emphasize its work as an incubator. Macy’s has the technology, infrastructure and legacy experience—the only thing missing is new talent, and even that is right within grasp.  

Macy’s has been exploring opportunities that it should be expanding further. Have you heard of The Workshop at Macy’s? Likely not, because it hasn’t been given much exposure since its launch. In Macy’s words, Workshop is an “exclusive retail vendor development program designed to give select high potential diverse-owned businesses the tools to better succeed and sustain growth in the retail industry.” If I were an emerging brand, I would jump at the chance to apply. The program has a healthy diversity initiative and a “commitment to fostering the growth and development of our vendor resources, including diverse, women, veteran and LGBTQ- owned enterprises.” Instead of putting marketing dollars behind Market, why not go all-in on Workshop and establish Macy’s as a true incubator and supporter of new brands? 

Now that sounds innovative, and I see so much potential for more. 

Being behind-the-scenes may not have the same glory, but it will have its rewards. At the end of the day, continuing to leverage its brand name won’t get Macy’s very far. 

I predict Market will end up being a similar story—pun intended. Rather than clinging to an idea of what it wants to be, it’s time for Macy’s to give up the ghost on creating trendy customer experiences and make room for the new innovators—the new Rachel Shechtmans—who are eager, capable and ready to do so.  

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Market by Macy's Grand Opening Celebration

Market by Macy’s storefront in Southlake, Texas. (Gareth Patterson/AP Images for Macy’s, Inc.)

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Here we go again.  

Macy’s recently opened a 20,000-square-foot “flexible retail store format” in Southlake Town Square, Texas, with brand experience officer Rachel Shechtman at the helm. Not to be confused with its in-store cousin The Market @ Macy’s, the newly launched Market by Macy’s is a bright, open design featuring local Texas brands as well as two new house brands, Getchell’s Apothecary and Herald, a food and beverage concept.

“Meet us at Market,” the tagline states. “We’re a gathering place for all that’s good, where brands you love meet fresh faces and local friends—a go-to for shopping with a side of something more.” That something more comes in the shape of in-store events, experiences, and classes like cape making for kids, dinner clubs, yoga classes, and terrarium building.

You might be picking up on my lack of enthusiasm here. While Macy’s recently reported higher than expected fourth-quarter earnings, sales have continued to decline for the retailer, and I’m skeptical that this new store concept will do much to reverse that trend. 

Shechtman is better known as the founder of Story, a hip New York City-based rotating concept store. In 2018, Macy’s acquisition of Story—and Shechtman’s sharp marketing mind—was a great play in terms of breathing new life and new strategies into the business model. 

Story was often described as part store, part magazine, and aptly so, as Shechtman did something exceptional by creating an opportunity for what she coined “retail media.” Story was ingenious for many reasons, but primarily because it wasn’t just great experiential marketing or a great community retail experience. It was also a pay-to-play environment for advertisers. Sponsors would “buy” a brand partnership for each month’s specially curated theme—and would even pay $1 million for a holiday edition. 

Primarily, what Macy’s wanted was Shechtman’s inventive thinking, and of course, the engaged community that came with Story. So, it adopted the concept to create Story at Macy’s in locations across the United States. 

Macy's Story Concept

Rachel Shechtman, left, founder of Story, and Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette in April 2019, in New York. … [+] (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

ASSOCIATED PRESS

But, under the recently announced three-year strategy called Polaris, Macy’s will close 125 stores and wipe out almost half of the Story at Macy’s boutiques along with them. In a press release, Jeff Gennette, chairman and CEO, states that, “We have a clear vision of where Macy’s, Inc. and our brands, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and Bluemercury, fit into retail today.”

A clear vision of where Macy’s fits into retail. Here’s the thing: I’m not convinced, and the launch of the Market by Macy’s is a perfect example of why. 

Macy’s has been trying different strategies to meet customers where they stand for what feels like as long as I can remember, all the way back to when I worked there in 2006. Back then, we had started to roll out the concept of My Macy’s, a strategic initiative around assortment planning and getting personalization right by region. We were looking at allocation through a new empathic and personalized lens. 

Since then, Macy’s has continually searched for ways to become more personable and have an empathic customer-facing relationship. But, what it continues to overlook is how incredibly difficult that is to do for a department store, and especially for a business of that size. Now, facing a much different Gen Z customer and that customer’s desire for fresh retail experiences, it seems like Macy’s is scrambling. When you can find almost anything you want on Instagram or through a new direct-to-consumer brand, what role does a department store have to play?  

I hate to say it, but this story is actually about the cool factor—or lack thereof. Take Market. The local brands, the space, the decor and the experiences are all hip… so why isn’t that creating an edge? Macy’s is making attempts to keep up with the industry and do something original, but in an evolving retail landscape, it can’t quite understand what people want.

Market by Macy’s, Market @ Macy’s, Story at Macy’s, My Macy’s. When it comes to naming conventions, there’s a formula here.  

So, let’s turn back to the eternal question: What’s in a name? Is Macy’s as a brand enough to attract our new generation of customers—and keep them coming back?

My thought is no. And if Macy’s keeps up the obsession with name-brand recognition, it will lose out on a golden opportunity. The retail strategy at hand is more complicated than this, but let’s be frank. Does your average Gen Z shopper want to wear a logo tee with “Macy’s” on it? No. But, would they sport one of a new, trending brand that Macy’s is funding? Absolutely. 

From where I stand, Macy’s would be much better off as a funder of brands and to emphasize its work as an incubator. Macy’s has the technology, infrastructure and legacy experience—the only thing missing is new talent, and even that is right within grasp.  

Macy’s has been exploring opportunities that it should be expanding further. Have you heard of The Workshop at Macy’s? Likely not, because it hasn’t been given much exposure since its launch. In Macy’s words, Workshop is an “exclusive retail vendor development program designed to give select high potential diverse-owned businesses the tools to better succeed and sustain growth in the retail industry.” If I were an emerging brand, I would jump at the chance to apply. The program has a healthy diversity initiative and a “commitment to fostering the growth and development of our vendor resources, including diverse, women, veteran and LGBTQ- owned enterprises.” Instead of putting marketing dollars behind Market, why not go all-in on Workshop and establish Macy’s as a true incubator and supporter of new brands? 

Now that sounds innovative, and I see so much potential for more. 

Being behind-the-scenes may not have the same glory, but it will have its rewards. At the end of the day, continuing to leverage its brand name won’t get Macy’s very far. 

I predict Market will end up being a similar story—pun intended. Rather than clinging to an idea of what it wants to be, it’s time for Macy’s to give up the ghost on creating trendy customer experiences and make room for the new innovators—the new Rachel Shechtmans—who are eager, capable and ready to do so.  

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