As Macy’s faces increased competition from Sephora and Ulta Beauty, the retailer is betting big on Nata Dvir.
In the nine months since she took over as general manager for beauty, Dvir has evolved her own skin-care routine from Cetaphil face wash to a seven-step regimen.
“What you start to learn is what products work,” she said on a recent afternoon from her office above the Macy’s flagship in Herald Square. Her marble-topped desk is clean and organized with minimal decor. From her chair hangs a Millennial pink sheepskin accent and on the window sill rests a white square with a red star on it.
Dvir has seemingly nailed decor — and branding — and become an advocate for exfoliation and serums, although she has yet to figure out how to record her daily skin-care routine, influencer style. What she is clear on is her strategic vision for Macy’s: to grow the retailer’s beauty business by focusing on Millennials and multicultural consumers, and empowering the more than 10,000 beauty advisers to provide cross-brand, cross-category service.
In May, Macy’s announced it was looking to hire 1,000 more beauty advisers nationally. The news comes at a time when retailers like Target and Saks are also rethinking the beauty concierge model, with Target looking to expand its Beauty Concierge Program and Saks adding the model to its newly modernized beauty floor.
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Dvir’s role is a big one. Once a go-to place for beauty, Macy’s has weathered a decline in foot traffic in midtier department stores. Sales have slowed down in recent years, but the retailer has shown increases in the past two quarters and posted a 3.6 percent year-over-year increase in sales to more than $5.5 billion in the first quarter of the year.
The U.S. retail landscape has shifted, with beauty consumers gravitating toward specialty retail — Sephora, Ulta Beauty and Macy’s-owned Blue Mercury, for example — and online. Other department stores have also revamped their beauty departments, with Saks unveiling a new beauty floor last week.
Dvir began her career at Macy’s nearly 13 years ago as a planner and worked her way up to vice president planning manager, men’s designer Impulse and denim collections, then senior vice president of planning, cosmetics and fragrances. In September, she took on the newly created role of general business manager for beauty. As such, she is tasked with transforming the retailer’s cosmetics and fragrance business, cross-brand training for beauty advisers, curating and adding to the brand offerings, creating a more open environment and enhancing the customer experience.
“Traditionally, the customer would walk in and go to one brand. Today, she wants to try all different brands, so we are creating a more flexible environment where she can discover and have experts help her with what she wants,” said Dvir. “The same thing goes for online — when she shops online, she typically types in exactly what she needs, but we’re adding a lot more inspirational content so she can try new things and go from Cetaphil to seven steps, too.”
One of her most recent endeavors was a five-part video interview series, the Deeper Beauty campaign, which launched on Macy’s YouTube channel in April.
“Deeper Beauty was our first step into doing something different on a social platform for beauty,” Dvir said. “What it’s really starting is that conversation about how you find your beautiful. All women have a different routine and use beauty in different ways — there are women that love wearing layers of foundation and contouring and baking and there’s some that dab a little blush on. It was highlighting different women and how they’re strong in different ways.”
The video interviews have so far garnered a collective total of nearly 2 million views — not bad, considering they’ve been online for a little more than a month. For context, Macy’s most-watched video, “The #SantaProject: Our Movement to Keep the Magic of Santa Claus Alive,” has 4.8 million views and was uploaded in November 2016.
The campaign is also a play at something many department stores are currently struggling with: attracting and retaining a Millennial customer.
“The more we do on social the more we’ll get Millennials into our stores,” Dvir said. That’s why she’s focused on changing the in-store experience, starting with the beauty advisers, whom she says are “the heart” of the store.
“When you really unwrap what beauty at Macy’s is, there are so many great things, so we’re talking more loudly about them and then adding new things to complement,” Dvir said. “Our beauty adviser is the expert. She is so knowledgeable and we are giving her more knowledge and getting her to learn more about other brands — more than just the ones she typically knows.”
To do this, Macy’s created a digital training platform, called the Beauty Playground, to train its beauty advisers on products across all brands and categories. The Playground also includes YouTube tutorials, Macy’s videos and brand-supplied videos. An in-house content manager updates it on a weekly basis, adding everything from information on the top 10 mascaras and eyeshadows to videos on how to craft an Instagram post.
“I believe it will help us retain better talent in our stores and it’ll help us create a better experience for our customers,” said Dvir. Macy’s has added a staff favorite fixture on its beauty floor, which holds products selected by the beauty advisers. “Whether it was the brand they were trained on or working with or it was something else, it was this cultural change that they could pick whatever that was and we did that right after they went through the training. So now when I go to stores I ask what they picked and why and they get so excited telling you why they love the product. I think that’s what customers want.”
They are also expanding with Millennial-focused brands such as Sunday Riley and Mario Badescu, and adding newcomers like Murad to the mix.
Dvir is focused on highlighting Macy’s already diverse customer base in its stores. “Brands are all coming out with shade extensions,” she said. “We have a great diverse consumer base already and so what we’re doing now is how do we visually distort that in stores. Now that there are so many different foundations and shades, which one is right for you, and that comes with training and how we merchandise it and understanding the nuance between undertones and textures.”
The store’s strongest category has been and continues to be fragrance, and Dvir is keen on catering to customers who are increasingly interested in ingredients and notes. There is also a strong focus on growing skin care and makeup — especially online, which accounts for about 15 percent of Macy’s beauty business.
As with all of the various initiatives she’s implemented, the goal is the same: “We’re all competitive,” said Dvir. “I’m looking to grow our market share. We’ve been using the hashtag Macy’s Beauty and I view it as a window to what’s happening in the stores. Our associates post a lot with it, and success to me is when I see them innovating in stores and in turn attracting customers and translating that to results. That’s what we need.”
As a non-beauty lifer, Dvir, who attended her first BeautyCon this year, said the most surprising thing about entering the category was witnessing the enthusiasm of the beauty consumer. “It’s this whole new customer I didn’t really have exposure to,” she said. “I respect the industry for listening to the customer. They do consumer studies and engage with the customer and I love that because then they’re continuing to create products that our customers are looking for and solving things that they want.”
She unwinds by playing tennis, spending time with family and FaceTiming with her best friend’s toddler everyday at 7 a.m. Still, two “bad” habits persist: checking e-mail late at night and buying shoes.
“I have a lot,” she said, laughing at her shoe collection. On this particular day, she chose flat Dior slingbacks. “I wear a lot of sneakers. A lot of the throwback sneakers have been coming back, so I’ve been wearing a lot of old Nikes that are back in style again. I’m so tall I feel like I can wear a lot of flats. There’s no spiky heel in my wardrobe.”
Nike nostalgia? It seems Dvir has mastered Millennial footwear, too.