It's a trap: Macy's sets up a selfie wall to lure millennials

Macy’s is going all out in its quest for millennial domination.

Nearly three years since the retailer launched its four-year, $400 million makeover for its flagship store in New York’s Herald Square, it has unveiled “One Below” — a 53,000-square-foot space in the location’s basement dedicated to the the whims of the millennial shopper.

Macy's new millennial section, called "One Below" at Herald Square
Macy’s new millennial section, called “One Below” at Herald Square

The space, which opened last week, carries an array of contemporary “accessible” brands that tend to appeal to the generation. There’s offerings from Jessica Simpson, Madonna’s Material Girl and Benefit Cosmetics. And, naturally, there’s gobs of technology to appeal to the selfie generation.

Take the Instagram wall, for instance, a giant touchscreen that displays Instas of young things showing off their purchases with the hashtag #Macyslove. Ah, but there’s more. Macy’s has built a “Selfie Wall,” a touchscreen that lets people take a selfie with images of iconic New York City destinations, including the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and Macy’s Fireworks.

“Millennials are one of the fast-growing segments and allow retailers to experiment with new in-store and online concepts — they are tech- and style-savvy customers who love to snap and share what they have found in-store,” said Elina Kazan, vp of media relations and cause marketing at Macy’s.

Let’s hope that lures them. Macy’s reported weak earnings last quarter and announced plans of shutting down between 35 and 40 stores. Like all legacy retailers, the 157-year-old chain needs to get younger. Macy’s average customer age is pushing 50. Back in May, retail analyst Walter Loeb had pointed out how going to department stores like Macy’s was “dull” and “unexciting” for millennials and how there was “little encouragement to linger.”

The interactive Instagram wall.
The interactive Instagram wall

To alter that perception, Macy’s is also leaning on personalization. The space also houses a wearable-tech section and a 3-D printing area, as well as build-your-own stations with brands such as Fossil and Levi’s and seating areas with outputs to charge phones. And those who want to get their brows shaped or blowouts or even their nails done need not fret — those options exist too. The emphasis is clearly on experiential.

“We wanted to create a destination for millennial customers to call their own,” said Kazan. “‘One below’ is a concept store within a store, where the customer can shop for clothing, accessories, cosmetics, get their hair and nails done, and even get customized products from jeans to watches.”

The 3-D printer section
The 3-D printer section

The space was still sparsely populated on Wednesday morning, and it’s still too early to tell how well the format will work for Macy’s, but a store manager working the floor said that she was “stoked” to be assigned that floor and that people were “fascinated” by the interactive Instagram wall.

“These days technology is everything,” said 16-year-old Gabby Kenna, who was shopping in the section with her mother and 20-something sister. “So it’s definitely going to draw in people.”

Not everyone was as optimistic, though. “One Below” might grab eyeballs among the 20 million visitors that the Herald Square location attracts annually, but whether or not it can be scaled across Macy’s 800 plus locations around the country is another question.

“People may be enamored by these bells and whistles, but it’s all useless if it doesn’t ultimately drive sales,” said Forrester analyst Sucharita Mulpuru.