Macy’s new STORY concept – described as a “narrative-driven retail experience” – has increased foot traffic & engagement and is inspirational for retailers in all categories. 

Before discussing Macy’s STORY roll-out, let’s start at the beginning. In 2011, a chic Manhattan boutique envisioned and operated by Rachel Shechtman made waves in retail and consumer circles for its novel approach of changing up both its product mix and displays to coordinate with a new theme every four to eight weeks. The goal was to encourage repeat visits due to continually changing products. Among the more memorable merchandising concepts were barbershop-style hot towel shaves and virtual reality-guided meditation sessions.

Attention-grabbing signage encourages customer engagement through color-inspired events and integrated merchandise moments.

What made the boutique so popular was the sense of “discovery” that Shechtman instilled in consumers, along with their anticipation for what the next theme and product presentation would be.

Eager to increase foot traffic in its stores nationwide, Macy’s has adapted the STORY concept and tapped Shechtman to be its “brand experience officer.” Under the inaugural theme of “Color,” Macy’s launched its version of STORY in April at 36 key stores in 15 states, including Macy’s flagship in New York City’s Herald Square.

“The discovery-led, narrative experience of STORY gives new customers a fresh reason to visit our stores and gives the current Macy’s customer even more reason to come back again and again throughout the year,” explains Jeff Gennette, Macy’s, Inc. Chairman & CEO.

In addition to collaborating with brand giants Crayola, Levi’s Kids, and MAC Cosmetics, Macy’s Color STORY also includes partnering with small business partners. In all, there are approximately 400 carefully selected products from a variety of participating brands and more than 300 color-themed community events on the roster designed to encourage the surrounding community to stop in. 

Macys Blue lights

Current by GE is responsible for the colorful lighting portion in the STORY vignettes.

Shechtman likens this brick-and-mortar experience to “a real-life version of scrolling through Instagram. You discover things you weren’t looking for, but are inspired by all the fun finds — the second you see it, you need it! We aspire to create that feeling with the breadth of the narrative-driven merchandise edit we are bringing to life with the launch of STORY at Macy’s across the country.”

For the inaugural STORY at Macy’s installation in Herald Square, award-winning designer David Stark, of Manhattan-based David Stark Design and Production, created what has been called “a colorful circus” of sorts, complete with faux fur columns. Custom pixelated-pattern carpet, developed by FLOR, helps customers visually navigate across a spectrum of color and cross-category merchandise. Italian fixture company ALU customized one of its signature fixture systems so that it could accommodate STORY’s ever-changing model; the in-store design is further animated with the world’s largest interactive Lite-Brite® experience produced by LiteZilla. Stark’s design team also partnered with Current by GE on an illuminated rainbow tunnel into the STORY area, brought to life through the company’s Tetra Contour technology.

“This Herald Square space showcases how STORY at Macy’s is bringing color, light, and technology together to transform the retail experience,” says Colleen Calhoun, Chief Marketing & Business Development Officer at Current by GE. “Our lighting designers worked with David Stark on the [tunnel] concept and he incorporated our signage and overhead lighting into the theme as well. As a like-minded innovation-focused company, we were eager to participate in this project with our LED and digital technology and look forward to working with the STORY at Macy’s team on its next chapter,” she adds.

“STORY has redefined retail with ever-changing, immersive environments, constantly evolving product
arrays, and experiential layers that combined, are nothing short of a magic act! We couldn’t be more thrilled to partner with this band of fearless innovators, who share our brand values for visionary storytelling, on the momentous occasion of their opening at Macy’s,” Stark comments.

In order to create a truly immersive customer experience, Macy’s hired 270 dedicated “STORY Managers” and “STORYtellers,” who participated in a “Know + Tell” experiential retail training program to familiarize themselves and staff with the integrated roles on everything from building fixtures to customer engagement and event production.

As an example of how the brands create special events, MAC Cosmetics’ offers an experience that has only been available at its professional stores: MAC’s custom-build service, “Make Your Own” palette station.  There, teen girls have the opportunity to take beauty classes on-site from expert makeup artists, mastering spring’s must-have looks from smoky eyes to festival-ready unicorn beauty.

For children, Crayola’s hands-on workshops feature its Create it Yourself (C.I.Y.) Network of clever crafting videos that showcase inventive uses for Crayola products through classes such as Melted Crayon Canvas artwork and how to create custom patches for classic Levi’s Kids’ denim jackets and tees with Crayola fabric markers.

“At Crayola, we inspire creativity through color and innovative play experiences. We are excited to partner with STORY at Macy’s to celebrate their new opening and debut select pieces from the Macy’s back-to-school exclusive Levi’s x Crayola collaboration,” says Smith Holland, President & CEO of Crayola LLC. For older kids, there are events such as P.S. We Love Hue: CRAYOLIGRAPHY hand-lettering workshops featuring Crayola Take Note! markers and pens with crafting influencers such as @AllWriteByMe, @theblondescribe and
@angeliqueink at select locations.

Levi’s Kids, manufactured and distributed by Haddad Brands, is previewing select pieces from its exclusive Levi’s x Crayola collaboration debuting at Macy’s in time for back-to-school shopping. A few pieces will be available before the full line officially launches mid-June at select Macy’s stores nationwide. “We have a successful history with Macy’s and, when we heard that STORY was launching, we knew it was the right channel to build buzz around our future collaboration,” explains Sam Haddad, principal, Haddad Brands.

The typical STORY at Macy’s installation averages 1,500 square feet, with the exception of STORY at Macy’s Herald Square in Manhattan, which encompasses 7,5000+ square feet on both the main floor and mezzanine levels. At the Herald Square flagship installation, Macy’s demonstrates its commitment to supporting small businesses by including an expanded range of independent brands, such as a “I Made That Bag” customization kit from the eponymous Brooklyn-based handbag company, items from Fun Socks®, and colorful glasses from Izipizi. Longtime STORY friend and collaborator, NYC-based artist Georgia Elrod painted an original mural for the expanded event space, which also features a Ping-Pong table illuminated with LED.

The accomplishment of STORY at Macy’s is to make shopping more interactive and interesting for the entire family. And while the concept of experiential retail is something the lighting industry has been hearing about for some time, this nationwide example will hopefully inspire lighting and home accent dealers to experiment with their own “stories” that will resonate with their own respective communities. For a listing of events by store, visit
macys.com/STORY