The Apothecary Pivot: Macy’s Starts Thinking Small
Dana Wood - The Robin Report - Apothecary - Macy's

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\”Flexible retail store format.\” Is that Macy\’s-speak for \”We\’re gonna try something new, and by some act of God, if it actually works, we\’ll shift from \’flexible\’ to \’inflexible\’\”? Or is it the trending new business strategy of \”try often, fail fast and go bold?\”

In a roll of the dice that sounds not just brave but pretty smart, the department store announced earlier this month that it would debut a riff on its Market @ Macy\’s in-store concept with a lone freestanding unit in the Lone Star State. Southlake, Texas, to be more specific.

Clocking in at 20,000 square feet, the new store, which is called Market by Macy\’s and is sited at the Southlake Town Square Mall, hardly sounds intimate and cozy. (As a basis of comparison, goop Lab on Bond Street in New York City is 2,100 square feet.) Still, it\’s a spit in the ocean compared to the estimated 2.2 million square feet Macy\’s Herald Square comprises.

[callout]Now that today’s hyper-authentic, individualistic makeup and skincare junkies – the real connoisseurs of this stuff – refuse to be “sold to,” the entire department store model just doesn’t work anymore. At least for beauty.[/callout]

Exclusive to the very first Market by Macy\’s are a couple of folksy, small town-vibe brands: Herald, a café that nods, in name, to its storied Manhattan flagship; and Getchell\’s Apothecary, named for legendary Macy\’s retailer Margaret Getchell, which will serve up a curated beauty selection.

At this point, you might be thinking: \”Wait, doesn\’t Macy\’s already own Bluemercury? And aren\’t they aggressively, doggedly opening up new units all over the country? Why pursue a new beauty apothecary when you\’re going guns-blazing with one you already own?\”

Another possible/probable headscratcher: the opening of any new Macy\’s stores at all when the retail behemoth has spent the bulk of the past few years shuttering doors. \’Tis a puzzlement, no? Actually, it isn\’t. At least in this reporter\’s opinion, I think Market by Macy\’s sounds promising. Why? Because of the relatively teensy footprint. By shrinking its selling floor to the 1,000 square feet it\’s devoting to Getchell\’s Apothecary, Macy\’s might be able to give its beauty business a shot in the arm, a genuine chance to thrive and grow. In other words, to get bigger.

Discovery Is Everything to the Savvy Beauty Consumer

I have two words for you: Vintner\’s Daughter. When I saw that Vintner\’s Daughter was among the brands on offer at Getchell\’s Apothecary, I was borderline floored. I was less floored, however, when I learned that the Napa-based Vintner\’s, an indie juggernaut if ever there was one, would be sold alongside Estée Lauder and Kiehl\’s.

Sure, Kiehl\’s once had every bit the insider cachet that Vintner\’s enjoys, but that hasn\’t been the case since pretty much the day L\’Oréal S.A. got its mitts on it. And classic Estée? Why someone saw fit to add that gorgeous old gal to the Getchell\’s mix really had me confused. But let\’s focus on why it makes so much sense to shrink in size, at least when it comes to beauty.

Now that today\’s hyper-authentic, individualistic makeup and skincare junkies – the real connoisseurs of this stuff – refuse to be \”sold to,\” especially by some poor soul on commission who probably doesn\’t even have the luxury of aligning herself/himself with just one brand, the entire department store model just doesn\’t work anymore. At least for beauty; I claim no knowledge of other product categories.

Department stores are about big, splashy, commercial beauty brands barricaded by glass. In contrast, a really classic apothecary lets you get up close and personal with the products, whether it\’s an intoxicating essential oil, a bizarre homeopathic wellness remedy that looks like it\’s bordering on voodoo, or some cult face crème all the cool French girls swear by. The stores are small, the aisles are small, the selection is small. But the sense of discovery? The sense of discovery is massive. And in this \”I like me\” moment, nabbing something no one else has is everything.

So Back to that Name…

Now that we\’ve honed-in on what Market by Macy\’s is getting right – its petite size and its \”destination\” beauty brands like Vintner\’s Daughter – let\’s talk about the zero risk it took with its moniker.

If you\’re a savvy, truly dialed-in beauty customer, the type who scours the digital doyennes Into the Gloss and Violet Grey for product recommendations, chances are you\’ll be immediately skeptical that a store called Market by Macy\’s has anything you simply have to have.

In other words, for the customer Market by Macy\’s is ostensibly hoping to lure – the really savvy one, who drops big bucks – there could be an automatic skeptical bias toward the name of the store. Given that, it will be on Macy\’s to do a real workaround and pump the word of mouth on social media and building excitement around its in-store events. Market by Macy\’s is helmed by Macy\’s Brand Experience Officer Rachel Schechtman which could bode well for the new store\’s social media and visibility prospects.

Perhaps taking its cue from a boutique indie retailer that really nails the in-store event thing – Knockout Beauty – Market by Macy\’s, per the retailer, will hold \”community-driven programming from cooking tutorials and book signings to crafting and fitness classes.\” Those events and classes sound really fun. In fact, the very idea of a relatively itty-bitty Market by Macy\’s in Texas, tricked-out with off-the-beaten-path brands (the store has stated that supporting local vendors is part of its mission) and a smaller-town vibe sounds pretty charming.

Consider my fingers officially crossed for Market by Macy\’s. The retail world could really use a hit right about now.

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