The retailer is making over its Chicago and New York flagships before a wider rollout.
Macy’s is giving makeovers to its beauty departments, aiming to make cosmetics more accessible to shoppers who want to try out products before they buy — taking a cue from two fast-growing beauty retailers, Ulta Beauty and Sephora.
The renovations are starting at Macy’s flagship stores on State Street in Chicago and at Herald Square in New York before being rolled out to other stores.
Macy’s declined to disclose how many stores will get the new look or the timeline for the changes.
On State Street, gone are the traditional makeup counters and tall, dark wood shelving. The new look boasts well-lit, sleekly designed, eye-level tables that encourage consumers to touch, play with and buy the latest blushes, skin creams and mascaras.
The retailer also has added a younger, trendier beauty section known as “Impulse Beauty,” with 14 new hair, skin and niche beauty brands aimed at reeling in hipper consumers.
For years, beauty sellers stood on one side of the counter, the customer on the other.
The new look is all about interaction, according to Macy’s officials.
“You used to walk up to the Clinique counter and they’d say, ‘How can I help you?’ Now you can look through without the pressure,” said Macy’s spokeswoman Lauren Rapisand.
The change in design doesn’t mean that sales associates have disappeared. They are just directed to provide advice and assistance if the customer wants it.
At Clinique, shoppers are encouraged to wear bracelets that convey their status — “in a hurry,” “in need of help” or “just browsing.”
The idea is to allow customers to move through the store and experience cosmetics as they want to — not as the retailer wants, according to Patrick Dalessandro, director of retail strategy at JGA, a Southfield, Mich.-based brand strategy and design firm.
Consumers are coming to expect cosmetics shopping to be more a more self-serve, user-friendly experience, where the products are out for the touching and testing and where beauty advisers are on hand for a quick makeover or consultation — but only if they want it. That’s the general model employed by Ulta and Sephora.
“The squeeze is coming from the consumer,” Dalessandro said. “Macy’s is recognizing that in order for them to evolve, they need to be able to provide and quite frankly go beyond consumer’s expectations.”
Macy’s is aiming to protect its position in the booming high-end cosmetics market, which has a growth rate of roughly 3 to 4 percent annually.
Mass-market beauty sellers are growing at a much slower rate of roughly 1 to 2 percent annually, according to Euromonitor International.
Consequently, retail watchers say Macy’s move probably will be rolled out more widely across the industry.
Dillards Inc., a Little Rock, Ark.-based department store chain with 284 locations in 29 states, is slowly revamping its beauty departments, according to Julie Bull, director of investor relations.