Macy’s has announced its partnering with electronics discovery store b8ta to expand it’s Market @Macy’s pop-up shops within Macy’s stores. Part of the deal includes Macy’s taking a minority stake in b8ta, which also helps brands build out physical stores.
Over the next year, The Market @ Macy’s will test new size formats by using b8ta’s technology and will expand the size of some of the existing pilot locations. The partnership will allow the Market concept to scale faster by customizing its platform for Macy’s and making it easier for brands to participate, along with furthering the company’s goal of bringing more excitement and fresh experiences into stores, Macy’s President Hal Lawton said in a statement.
b8ta was founded in 2015 by Nest alums Vibhu Norby, William Mintun and Phillip Raub. Thier concept stores help shoppers try tech gadgets before buying them, even if those products aren’t yet in stores.
B8ta’s knowledge and cachet in the home and consumer electronics space provide an opportunity to introduce new products and categories to Macy’s shoppers.
Macy’s also recently acquired New York-based Story, a shop that rotates merchandise based on a theme every few months. As part of that deal, Story founder and CEO Rachel Shechtman joined Macy’s as “brand experience officer.”
This is all part of Macy’s recent moves into transformational and experiential shopping, a topic we’ve been following. It’s no secret that bricks and mortar retail are suffering, but the ones that hang on are coming up with new and innovative ways to remake their space to keep the customers coming to their physical space.
Market@ Macys originally launched in February as a pop-up concept in only10 Macy’s stores. During the program, the retailer opened its ground floor to brands that don’t yet have their own physical locations. The concept was met with positive initial feedback, and now the Market concept is expanding more broadly.
B8ta currently has nine standalone locations in the US and the Macys deal gives the brand a good runaway to expand its footprint. B8ta also works with Lowe’s with a store within a store concept for selling and demoing smart home products.
(An abridged transcript from our conversation.)
John Suder: I’m looking at their products. They’ve got some neat stuff. It’s like a high end…what were those stores they used to have?… Hammacher Schlemmer, Sharper Image…Brookstone? The stores look pretty cool. It’s got kind of a hipster Apple feel. A lot of bleached wood, black, mirrors, little chandeliers. Very cool. There are nine actual stores right now. Austin, Corte Madera, Palo Alto, Houston, Seattle, Santa Monica, New York, Portland, San Francisco, and then there’s a ton of them in Lowe’s.
What we’ve been talking about a lot lately is the pop-up shops and the experiential retail. And this is a great example of that. Macy’s has some great a real estate, but as we all know, foot traffic is shrinking and they need more creative ways to figure out how to use that space. And I think this is a good fit.
Bart Mroz: It’s taking that “small shop/divided up shop” concept into a big store and I think that’s just bringing it back. Macy’s divided into a whole bunch of departments, the shoe department, there’s the makeup department, right? But divided even smaller. I think that’s a good idea to do. Especially for products that like people won’t really have storage for.
John: That’s a great point. And what we’ve been seeing is a lot of the department stores, they depend on that, but customer coming through, but so much of that is going online and we’ve talked about how AR is moving in – like when you walked through Macy’s and the first department you cut through as the cosmetics department and the perfume and Cologne and all that. And it’s huge. And then they also have this little stations that people go to and they can get the little makeup demos. A lot of that stuff’s going online. You know, if a woman wants to try on some eyeshadow or nails AR – is so incredible for that now. So they don’t have to concede as much floor space to that kind of thing. But what do you fill it up with? Well, if you look at on B8ta site, not only are the stores beautiful but the product selection skews to more higher-end customers. So I think Macy’s is trying to appeal to that deep-pocketed millennial. Especially if you look at what’s on Beta site, you’ve got VR glasses and you’ve got electric bikes and things like that.
Bart: I love this kind of stuff and there are certain things I actually do own already, but there are certain things I want to check out on hand instead of just ordering it. So you have both. It, it just makes sense. And then that brings a person like me into Macy’s, which I don’t really go into. But if something is like that there, I will definitely do it.
John: It’s neat because you can put your hands on this stuff – here’s a great example: they have that 3D Pen where you can kind of write in the air in just like a 3D printer. That’s the kind of stuff you want to go check it out. You want to put your hands on it. And Macy’s doesn’t have to carry any inventory. I’m sure a lot of the stuff is – you look at the product and they say, okay, we’ll take your money and we’ll ship it to you in two days. But no big deal, especially if you’re living in say, New York City, you don’t want to be carrying your Scoot-scoot down the street. You want to have it delivered to your house.