When STORY launched in 2011, it arrived as a ground-breaking retail concept. Undergoing a complete instore makeover (from product assortment and store design to VM and the entire marketing message) every 4-8 weeks. Every STORY changeover created a whole new store in the eyes of the customer, and as a highly engaging, immersive instore experience. Different? – Yes. Exciting? – Most definitely.
Quick to recognise a good concept when it saw one, Macy’s Inc. acquired the business in 2018. Now a sub-brand of Macy’s, it has added the STORY concept into many of its department stores. Today, it retains the style, flair and boldness that was central to founder Rachel Shechtman’s original idea as a key part of its instore magic.
What marks STORY out is that each of its themes have real integrity, offering much more than just a cosmetic department update or the addition of new seasonal products. Instead of just making changes to the outside ‘layer’, the look and feel, product planning, design direction, and team engagement surpasses the attention typically expected, or given by, a mass market retailer. This is a full-on change.
The latest iteration ‘Color’ is no different. Timed to coincide with the World Pride NYC event at the end of this month, it forms part of the wider Macy’s Pride + Joy campaign. In the flagship Herald Square, Macy’s NYC store includes a series of window murals created by leading street artists depicting their own experiences of Pride.
For STORY, its celebration of World Pride 2019 began with more than 270 dedicated STORY managers and STORYtellers going through an experiential training programme ahead of its launch. An example of the commitment made to ensure that those involved know, play and own their part in its success. Involvement, attachment and understanding of the concept, and what needs to be delivered, brings a sense of ownership to store assistants; giving them confidence to sell and replenish correctly, without diluting the quality of the curated displays.
Theming each product collection through the simple use of colour – in way that’s almost exaggerated and overtly done – its ‘Color’ story navigates customers through a full rainbow spectrum. It’s a clever approach, encouraging you to visit each colour area to satisfy yourself that you haven’t missed anything. It gets to you. The experiential zones, the visual inspiration within each, amplify the need to discover and explore. Best of all, it’s rewarding – customers are guaranteed to find things they weren’t looking for. It’s fun, experimental and smile making. Isn’t this what retail needs to do right now?
This is a great example of how an eclectic, edited mix of disconnected products can be combined to work well together. Breaking with convention, in this STORY iteration, products are divided into small collections and grouped by colour as the first priority. Independent new brands are mixed in and trialled with well-known names, and all mixed up together, breaking normal brand and category grouping rules.
Innovative product presentation completes the chic instore look. Whether items are laid flat, stood up, hung, stacked, randomly grouped, or a combination of all – it works. The knolling principle being widely used, where everyone from bloggers to boutique brands arrange small products in neat, precise linear composition as photographed from above. Overall, the simplistic product layout and merchandising principles used, mixing form, function and style shows each separate colour area with a cohesive and consistent look. The impact to the untrained eye is easy but the use of VM principles goes far deeper.
Make no mistake; the inter-mix of products isn’t as easy as it sounds. Sound selection and strength of buy is key but equally (if not more important) is the pure basis of visual presentation that links it all together. The connectivity of the narrative driven merchandising is the cog that makes all the other elements work together and is at the heart of the success story of STORY.
As with every STORY theme, the end result is a concept that is clearly designed to drive traffic back into Macy’s footprint while having something exciting to shout about and entice customers, new and old. Gone are the days of retailers assuming regular customers will stay just that. The element of surprise is key akin to flicking through your social media posts – the unexpected keeps you scrolling for more and, Macy’s hopes, the unknown will be key to keeping customers hooked.
Listen to Macy’s National Director of Window Presentation, Roya Sullivan, talk about how the world famous department store is bringing Pride celebrations to life instore here.
Check out Visual Thinking founder Karl McKeever’s thoughts on ‘Pride. Planet. Progress.’ here.