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Editor's pick Retail Uncategorized

The future of retail is collaboration, says Story’s Rachel Shechtman

If the future of retail could be summed up in one word, it is collaboration, says Story founder and Macy’s brand experience officer Rachel Schechtman. Speaking at a panel chaired by Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette at NRF’s Big Show in New York today, Shechtman outlined how she is translating her successful retail concept to the American company 18 months into the new role, with a key focus on curation and scalability.

Working with such a large legacy retailer comes with a different set of challenges, but for Shechtman, it is important to retain the parameters that she applies to her successful NY-based concept, where its theme and product assortment changes every six weeks. Collaboration for her isn’t ever about simply merchandise, but rather strategic partnerships that become part of the storytelling Story has become known for.

When choosing a partner, she asks three questions: will this partner add authority and authenticity to the category in which they exist? Do they create a product that is relevant to a subset of men, women or children? And lastly, do they like them? The latter might sound simple, but when doing things that are pushing the envelope, it is important to have affinity with who you’re working with, she says.

There is no one-size-fits-all mentality to her approach, however, and the most important litmus test is: are customers receiving an experience the they cannot get on their couch? Focusing on strong staff training and visual merchandising allows the retailer to create a story around the product which will undoubtably lure the customer into the physical space, she says.

Shechtman has been attending the Macy’s university, she says, since beginning her new role, understanding how the brand’s culture and DNA affects the retail experience. Her in-house team is focused on three main strategies in order to translate the success that Story has achieved, but at a much wider scale. Firstly, they are looking at how to show up differently for their customers, presented within a Macy’s environment, both by testing and creating new processes. Secondly, engaging with 300+ colleagues within the organization and allowing them to become co-creators of this new experience in order to make it sustainable and scalable in the long run. Lastly is the important piece of partnerships, and how to maintain that value proposition when working with a company that has millions of social followers and store windows all over the country.

With internet democratisation and customer needs changing, collaboration and learning from what other businesses can offer is the way forward, concludes Shechtman. It’s about always thinking strategically about who you work with, and what the end result means for the customer experience.

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Editor's pick Retail

WeWork launches retail vertical to promote members’ brands

WeWork's WeMRKT
WeWork’s WeMRKT

WeWork has launched WeMRKT, a new retail space featuring products made by WeWork members, giving up-and-coming companies visibility, support and feedback within the co-working space’s community.

Products will  include healthy snacks, office necessities and branded apparel. Julie Rice, the company’s chief brand officer, said the new format is “by our members, for our members” and that WeMRKT is “a great example of WeWork’s commitment to our members’ success”.

An initial selection of 10 products featured was chosen in a pitch competition in April, with winners being selected through criteria such as innovation, eye-catching packaging and a solid business plan. Included are brands such as Banana, a plantain chip company aiming to eliminate food waste on organic banana farms, and Misfit Juicery, which makes cold pressed juices using ‘ugly’ produce that farmers are unable to sell elsewhere.

Competitions will now be held quarterly, and winners will also further distribute through SnackNation, a healthy snack delivery service that partners with WeWork.

For chosen companies, this is an opportunity to not only promote their product, but receive more immediate feedback, says Molly Peterson, director of communications at yoghurt brand Icelandic Provisions. “That feedback actually really helps us in terms of product development,” she says. “We are really honored and feel lucky to have that kind of instant visibility within the WeWork community.”

WeMRKT’s first location was unveiled on June 25 at the New York WeWork 205 Hudson, with more locations planned to open in the city and across the country, imminently.

As legacy retailers struggle to react quickly to retail’s ever-changing climate, independent brands are increasingly being more nimble in their approach and finding new channels in which to get their products in customers’ hands. Also in New York City, for example, is Bulletin, a “flea market” type of store that rents shelf space to up and coming brands who were born in digital, enabling them to sell in the physical space.

Not all established retailers are ignoring this trend, however. In May this year, Macy’s announced it was acquiring Story, a retail space that changes its concept and merchandise every four to six weeks. Story’s founder Rachel Shechtman, now Macy’s brand experience officer, has been tasked with bringing the experiential nature of the concept into Macy’s department stores throughout the country.