Macy’s to test store-in-store, customer-service initiatives at Easton site

(Author : Tim Feran)
From the lights to the flooring to the fixtures to the merchandise itself, Macy’s at Easton is “100 percent brand new,”or will be on June 25, when the retailer introduces the new store-design prototype on June 25.

Construction began on March 27 — with work taking place as the store remained open — to turn the conventional department store into a new model featuring “lifestyle” departments and leased businesses. The latter is a version of the store-within-a-store concept that recently gained attention — if not a lot of success —when JCPenney tried it.

“This is the new way Macy’s is looking at the customer,” said Andrea Schwartz, vice president of media relations and cause marketing.

What Macy’s is counting on to make the physical changes successful is its heightened focus on customer service. Macy’s is hiring 117 additional employees, 50 of them temporary, at the Easton store to execute several new initiatives. For example, the Connect @Macy’s kiosk will offer one-on-one service to customers as soon as they walk into the store. In addition, the retailer is offering at no cost a personal-shopper service called My Stylist @Macy’s. Macy’s decision to add customer-service employees makes sense, said Lee Peterson, an executive vice president at WD Partners, a Dublin retail-consulting company.

To blow up the old model is the right way to go,” Peterson said. “They’ve figured it out. That’s brilliant. The thing is, this is going to cost a lot. But what’s going to cost too much is if you go out of business.”

Other areas that Macy’s has transformed at the Easton prototype range from massively different to subtly enhanced.

The Restore, Nourish and Strengthen department, for example, includes footwear from Finish Line and various brands of athletic apparel as well as Gaiam Yoga merchandise, Fitbit watches and a Berry Blendz full-service juice and smoothie bar. The customer-service aspect in this department includes full-time health and fitness “ambassadors.”

Instead of teaching someone to ring a register, we’re hiring people who understand the lifestyle,”said Kathi Newton, vice president and store manager. “I think this is going to be a real game-changer.”

The cosmetics department at Easton is receiving a complete face-lift with new fixtures and counters and the addition of a Bluemercury shop, which not only offers beauty products but such treatments as microdermabrasion, brow tinting, facials and waxing.

Store-within-a-store elements also include a new LensCrafters locations with licensed optometrists and a Premier Salon and Spa offering hair, nail and massage services.

Both of those elements are grouped close to the expanded wedding and engagement department, an area in which Macy’s has long been a force.

Nearby are a Papyrus stationery shop, the Tux Shop at Macy’s operated by Men’s Wearhouse, an expanded assortment of special-occasion dresses and an expanded jewelry area that includes loose diamonds available for custom designs. A free wedding stylist from the My Stylist @Macy’s program will be available to offer tips to wedding parties and guests on dresses, suits, gifts and honeymoon attire.

“I don’t think we’ve ever done wedding so cohesively,” Schwartz said.

With a nod to more-compact urban living, the new furniture department includes areas showing how small-footprint homes can be furnished — and including signs showing the square footage of the areas. The Easton store is so far the only prototype, but officials plan to open it and see how shoppers react.

“That’s one of the best things about working at Macy’s — they’re not afraid to change,” Newton said. “It’s about responding to what the customer is telling us.”

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