Macy’s updates its website and trains personal stylists

Macy’s store in Herald Square, New York.

Scott Mlyn | CNBC

The department store chain announced on Tuesday that Macy’s is preparing to overhaul its website and train some of its employees as personal stylists to attract more customers looking for the latest fashion trends.

The retailer hopes to offer a more personal shopping experience, with personal attention from in-store staff and easier web navigation. This is an attempt to better compete with other fashion retailers, from large department stores to clothing boutiques and other online fashion players who specialize in style advice.

Macy’s recently reviewed its business with third-party consulting firm AlixPartners to determine whether it makes sense for the retailer to separate its e-commerce division from its stores. Macy’s said last month that it would not pursue such a split. But at the end of the review, the department store chain found room for improvement both online and in its more than 500 namesake department stores.

Rich Lennox, Macy’s chief brand manager, said in an interview that while Macy’s had already invested heavily in its digital presence and social media strategy, the retailer sought to better articulate to shoppers how it differs from competitors.

Macy’s will be introducing new branding both in stores and online under the new motto: “Own Your Style”.

“What we were looking for was some sort of unifying truth about the consumer,” he said. “Because we want to attract younger clients, but we also need to take care of our old clients and our more established value clients.”

Macy’s will also train its staff to help customers with one-on-one styling choices. The company said some employees will be enrolled in Macy’s “Style Crew” and they will be able to earn commissions to help drive sales for their participation in the program and for their social media posts that lead to transactions.

In addition, Macy’s dress code for all store employees will be relaxed so employees can incorporate their personal style choices into what they wear every day, Lennox said.

According to a spokesperson, Macy’s current dress code can best be described as business casual. Now the choice of clothes will vary depending on the role of the employee in the company. For example, an employee in the general sales area might opt ​​for a more casual look with their favorite jeans and sneakers. While a jeweled employee might wear a blazer with flashy accessories.

In stores, Macy’s will introduce digital screens that display rotating style tips and inspiring images for shoppers, who can then find the same clothing and accessories to buy nearby.

Macy’s declined to comment on how much money it would spend on these initiatives. The spokeswoman said the retailer does not disclose this level of detail in its financial statements.

Macy’s site is getting a makeover

The changes add up to a broader Macy’s three-year plan announced in February 2020 and called Polaris that called for accelerating digital growth, closing underperforming stores, and investing in its best stores, thereby boosting profits.

While some progress has been halted due to the Covid pandemic, CEO Jeff Jennett said in late February that Macy’s is more digital-focused today than it was in 2019. In this vein, the department store is preparing to launch a digital marketplace where it will allow third-party brands to sell their wares, positioning it as a competitor to Amazon or Etsy.

Macy’s digital sales accounted for 35% of net sales in the 12 months ended January 30, up 10 percentage points from 2019 levels. Nordstrom’s digital business, by comparison, accounted for 42% of net sales in fiscal 2021. While Kohl’s said its online business accounted for 32% of total revenue last year.

Macy’s net sales in fiscal 2021 were $24.46 billion, down slightly from the $24.56 billion reported by Macy’s in 2019. For fiscal year 2022, the company forecasts revenue growth of no more than 1%.

As part of the changes announced Tuesday, shoppers will soon receive a personalized website landing page based on each visitor’s past purchase history. An updated dashboard will show loyalty members how many reward points they have accumulated, upcoming orders, and unique style recommendations.

“There will be an enhanced digital experience,” Lennox said. “Global navigation will be simplified, the modern search bar will be updated. [and] client’s personal account.

Jefferies analyst Stephanie Wissink said Macy’s strategy of accelerating Polaris’ goals rather than moving forward through operational separation is “prudent.” 2022 is an important year for the department store chain to “prove that its improved performance is sustainable,” she said.

With its focus on individual style, Macy’s can position itself as a stronger competitor to a company like Stitch Fix, which curates clothing boxes based on customer tastes and brand preferences. The Nordstrom department store chain is also known for its particular focus on customer service and personalized fashion advice. It’s something that other high-end chains such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale’s, owned by Macy’s, go to great lengths to achieve.

Facing a range of challenges, including inflation and constant supply chain disruptions, Macy’s hopes to be the go-to destination for consumers looking for a fresh new look as they return to offices, parties, weddings and more this year.

“Our business model is built around having a large selection of brands where we can position ourselves in this style-assist territory,” said Lennox. “It’s something that Macy’s has always done very well, and we’re going to do it much better.”

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