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Story Founder Exits Macy’s on Eve of Retailer’s Reimagined July 4th Fireworks: Week Ahead

Add Story founder Rachel Shechtman to the list of corporate employees set to depart Macy’s Inc. on June 30.

Macy’s on Thursday disclosed plans for a headcount reduction of 3,900 staff members from corporate ranks, stores, supply chain and customer support.

CEO Jeff Gennette said the restructuring is engineered to balance its cost structure with expected sales in a post-coronavirus world.

“Based on today’s economic realities, we are pausing our new store format work to focus on our existing store and omni-channel footprint. As part of this transition, Rachel Shechtman will be leaving Macy’s,” a Macy’s spokeswoman said. “Rachel has been an outstanding member of the executive team, bringing us fresh perspective and her unique approach to experiential retail. We know she will continue to be an important voice and vision in retail.”

In recent years, Macy’s took an investment stake in B8ta, and acquired Story and Bluemercury. It was the success of Story and its ever-evolving themed concept store in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan that was expected to herald in a new era of change at the 91-year-old retailer, one based on creating enriching in-store experiences. Macy’s acquired Story in 2018, with Shechtman joining the department store chain as brand experience officer.

The first story Story told at Macy’s was a shop-in-shop narrative in 36 locations on the theme of color. It was structured to allow consumers to explore over 70 brands, many of which would not otherwise have a presence within a Macy’s store. The second involved a collaboration with Dick’s Sporting Goods and Miracle-Gro, based on a theme about the outdoors. The idea was to bow a new theme every few months.

“I think the ideas were good, but the execution questionable,” said retail consultant Walter Loeb. “It was just too difficult to assemble a new story theme so quickly and so often.”

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Story continues in a reimagined format as more of a gifting concept, and the retailer moved on to a new concept called Market by Macy’s. Market was a test concept in Texas, headed by Shechtman, that creates a community-driven destination highlighting brands and artisans in the local marketplace. “I liked the idea of Market by Macy’s better, but because of COVID-19, the greater priority has to be about getting sales and people into the stores to shop,” Loeb said.

Meanwhile, Macy’s plans a reimagined July 4th fireworks display all next week from select locations across New York City’s five boroughs. Five minute-long displays will take place after dark in unannounced locations to prevent gatherings of large crowds beforehand.

“Each show is brief and will be over before residents can gather at its source. Staying close to home and following safe social distancing guidelines is the best way to enjoy the show,” the retail said on its website. Each display will still feature Macy’s signature pyrotechnic design and scale, with displays firing thousands of shells per minute and reaching heights of up to 1,000 feet.

The week-long shows and a live finale will be televised nationally on NBC’s two-hour special Saturday night, beginning at 8:00 p.m.

As stores began reopening plans in late April, it was once thought that Memorial Day weekend would see enough store reopened to get a sense of consumer’s willingness to head back to the malls. And while there initially were some positive trends, some economists believe that it was largely due to pent-up demand helped by stimulus checks from the federal government.

And many consumers might not be in the mood to shop this weekend, even if they could. While more stores will be open over the July 4th holiday weekend, there’s also been an increase in new coronavirus infections across 30 states. Some retailers, such as Apple, have closed stores they just reopened, while Disney has pushed back the opening of its California theme park until mid-July. And Texas on Friday became the first state to reissue shelter-in-place restrictions after lifting them on April 30 as infections surge in the southern state.