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Macy's unveils Story at Roosevelt Field, other locations

The Story concept, which curates merchandise around a theme, comes as retailers try to lure back shoppers who are increasingly turning to the internet.

Shoppers browse the merchandise at Macy's Herald Square

Shoppers browse the merchandise at Macy's Herald Square on the opening day of Story on Wednesday. Credit: AP/Mark Lennihan

A year after buying startup Story, Macy's is bringing the retail concept to life in 36 stores in 15 states, including its Manhattan flagship and at the Roosevelt Field mall in Garden City.

The concept, which curates merchandise around a theme and rotates every four to six weeks, comes at a time when department stores like Macy's are trying to rethink how to better lure back shoppers who are increasingly going online.

Many stores and malls are now experimenting with rotating merchandise that hopefully will keep shoppers coming back.

Macy's first Story, called Color, opened Wednesday and is anchored by three big brands: MAC Cosmetics, crayon maker Crayola and jeans giant Levi Strauss & Co. But the shop, awash in bright colors, features items from roughly 70 small businesses and includes items such as brightly colored-T-shirts, books, colorful dishes, candles and candy.

The typical Story shop carries about 400 items with an average price of about $20. Most of the items are impulse buys that shoppers don't need like a pizza cutter shaped like a bike or unicorn-themed socks. The Manhattan Story is about 7,500 square feet, while the other stores average about 1,500 square feet.

Macy's is also playing up the experience. The retailer plans events including beauty classes and workshops that teach customers how to design custom patches for denim jackets. At 30 Story concept shops, shoppers can create their own makeup palettes at MAC stations.

Industry watchers are closely eyeing Macy's partnership with Story, which was founded by Rachel Shechtman. Shechtman has nearly 300 employees now dedicated to the Story concept and is working on other projects that will help bring more innovation to Macy's.

In an interview with The Associated Press Wednesday, Macy's CEO Jeff Gennette said he hopes the Story concept will get existing customers to shop more frequently, while also attracting younger customers. But Gennette says that having Shechtman, who joined Macy's in a new role as brand experience officer, is helping Macy's think outside the box.

"This is not going to change the trajectory of Macy's, but it does change how we are perceived," Gennette said. "It's helping us rethink how we can go much faster and more at the speed of the customer."

Gennette declined to estimate sales for Story concept, but he said he believes it can be just as successful as Shechtman's store in lower Manhattan, which is closing as the Herald Square shop launches.

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