With Story at Macy’s, it’s all about testing new experiences, products and partnerships.
And with the latest Story iteration launching today —themed “Outdoor” — the most surprising initiatives are the partnerships with Dick’s Sporting Goods and Miracle-Gro. They’re both sponsors for the second go-round of Story at Macy’s and providing merchandise never previously sold at the department store.
Private label merchandise from Dick’s, the nation’s largest sporting goods chain, is displayed in the Story shop inside Macy’s Herald Square and 35 other Macy locations around the country. Among the merchandise from Dick’s — Alpine Design activewear and parkas, Quest backpacks, and Field & Stream sleeping bags.
Earlier this year, Rachel Shechtman, the founder of Story which was purchased by Macy’s Inc. last year, approached Jeff Gennette, Macy’s chairman and chief executive officer, with the Dick’s idea.
“I paused because I wouldn’t have thought about partnering with another retailer to sell outdoor products at Macy’s,” said Gennette. “However, as she presented her ideas and the merchandise her team was envisioning, it made a lot of sense. I reached out to Ed Stack, the chairman and ceo of Dick’s, knowing that this would be a first for them as well — to share their exclusive private brand assortment in another major retailer. But he also saw the creative vision and we had the deal done and partnership launched in less than two months.”
With Miracle-Gro, Story at Macy’s will sell plants, planters, plant-care products and the Miracle-Gro Twelve Indoor Growing System, a hydroponic unit to grow foods like lettuce, kale, basil and mint indoors.
In addition, Story will test Greendigs, an online brand Miracle-Gro is launching that will mark the first time it will sell direct to consumers. Miracle-Gro typically wholesales to Home Depot and other chains. Greendigs will officially debut in the fall, following its Story at Macy’s test run.
“Bringing the outside in with Outdoor Story is a brilliant approach to introduce our new solutions like Miracle-Gro Twelve and new brands like Greendigs to consumers,” said Patti Ziegler, chief digital and marketing services officer, Scotts Miracle-Gro.
Essentially, Story serves as a laboratory for testing products never before sold at Macy’s in an unorthodox setting that constantly changes. Every two months or so, there’s a completely different merchandise theme presented by Story.
It’s possible merchandise from Dick’s and Miracle-Gro gets sold in Macy’s after September when the Outdoor set-up gets dismantled and a new theme is introduced. Dick’s and Miracle-Gro products could be merchandised in other areas of the store, though that remains to be seen. “To date, our discussions have been limited to Outdoor Story, but we are always open to new partnerships,” Gennette told WWD.
Asked about the implications Story could have elsewhere in the store, or adding new categories or merchandise adjacencies, Gennette replied, “It’s too soon to tell. We’re studying closely the response our customers have to Story — both in terms of engagement and transactions. As time goes on, we will take learnings that are scalable and consider them in other areas of the store.”
Story was launched in April at Macy’s. The inaugural theme was “Color” and Crayola, one of the sponsors then, introduced its products to the store for the first time. “We’re definitely having conversations about bringing in this brand to Macy’s for bigger distribution,” said Shechtman.
So far, according to Gennette, “Our customers love engaging with the unique content. Story has given a fresh boost of creativity and energy to our in-store events. There are all kinds of interesting partnerships that we can tap into to bring great experiences to our customers.”
Asked how Story was performing, Gennette replied: “No metrics to share at this time. However, we are pleased with the customer response so far.”
“Books has been one of our top categories — cookbooks, lifestyle books, journals,” Shechtman said, when asked about the learnings so far.
Before determining whether to install additional Story shops across the Macy’s chain, the team needs more time to assess the results. “It’s important to get a read,” Shechtman said. “That takes time. The more we learn before we expand is very important.”
It’s a fast-moving concept, with Outdoor taking just two months from conception, to sourcing, to getting the goods on the selling floor. Story has a team including merchants, graphic designers, store designers and visual personnel — about 40 in all, though the team will grow to 60 by the end of the summer, Shechtman said.
Lately, retailers fiercely competing against each other are starting to partner up in an “if you can’t beat them, join them” approach. At Kohl’s, for example, Amazon orders can be picked up or returned to Kohl’s stores. Kohl’s also carries many Amazon products in its locations. As Shectman noted, “Someone once said collaboration is the new competition.”
On Monday, WWD got a preview of the Outdoor presentation at Story inside Macy’s Herald Square. “It’s all about taking a trip and getting outdoors,” observed Shechtman, describing the latest Story concept.
“It breaks down into three sections — outdoor entertaining, bringing the outdoors indoors and outdoor activities.”
Among the other products displayed: Martone bicycles, Tidal flip-flops, New York Times crossword puzzles, as well as jigsaw puzzles, baseballs, bats, badminton equipment, and BareMinerals makeup and rosewater sprays.
According to Shechtman, around 95 percent of the merchandise at Story now is new to Macy’s; 5 percent is already sold at the store including BareMinerals makeup, though the makeup and sprays were integrated because they’re relevant to the Outdoor concept.
The look and decor of the latest Story concept was created by David Stark Design. The setting has lots of artificial turf, a lemonade stand by child entrepreneur Mikaila Ulmer of Me & the Bees, and several “selfie” moments. You can hop into a beachy summer truck with an open roof and a roll bar, or pose at a picnic table.
For Outdoor Story, more than 250 events at the 36 locations are scheduled, including workshops on gardening, planter customization, terrariums, tie-dying T-shirts, cornhole tournaments and barbecue cooking classes.
Shechtman launched Story in 2010 in the Chelsea section of Manhattan. Macy’s acquired Story in 2018 and Shechtman now serves as Macy’s brand experience officer.
“In essence, Story is like an all-year-round gift shop,” Shechtman said.