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CEW Panel Discusses the Future of Retail

Executives from Macy's Inc., Violet Grey and Story talked about the changing retail landscape.

At the CEW’s panel on the evolving retail landscape, Amazon was a main topic of discussion.

Moderated by WWD executive beauty editor Jenny B. Fine, the panel brought together Nata Dvir, general business manager of beauty and fragrance at Macy’s Inc., Cassandra Grey, founder and chief executive officer at Violet Grey, and Rachel Shechtman, founder and chief executive officer of Story, on Wednesday night at the Harmonie Club to talk about the e-tailer and other changes in retail.

“If you have a story to tell and a product to sell, then you need to have an Amazon strategy,” Grey said. “Amazon gets a bad rap because obviously it’s so disruptive, but really Amazon isn’t the boss. The customer is the boss and Amazon exists to serve the customer.”

Even though Amazon is convenient for customers, Grey sees some downsides for the e-tailer. “What Amazon doesn’t have that [the customer] wants is content, narrative, curation and emotional connectivity, all of that stuff that we find in department stores, magazines or social media.”

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At department stores, Dvir stressed the important role that sales associates play in the evolving retail landscape. “We’re unlocking [sales associates’] true potential by really giving them access to knowledge about all brands,” she said, stating that Macy’s Inc.’s new Beauty Playground, a training platform for sales associates, gives the company’s employees the knowledge and tools to create a more personal connection with customers. “They are so curious about beauty, so part of this is evolving them from selling to solving for our customers.”

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When choosing a new partner for her store, Shechtman asks three questions: does a partner bring authority and authenticity; does she like them, and can she create a narrative for men, women and kids between the ages of five and 95. “At the end of the day, I’m not an agency and I’m not a pop-up shop,” she said. “Story is a brand, so if I’m going to stand behind it both as an individual and as a brand with colleagues and employees, I need to believe in it.”

For service, Grey stressed saving your customers time. “People want to feel really good about their purchases and they want a trusted source to do the work for them,” she said. “At Violet Grey, we think everyone would like to have their own celebrity makeup artist or nail artist. The fact is that they can through content, they can access their inspiration, education and their trusted product recommendations.”