We visited Macy's Colour Story pop-up and saw why it's an Instagram dream

Bethany Biron/Business Insider
  • Macy’s is taking a cue from Instagram-friendly phenomenons like the Museum of Ice Cream and Rosé Mansion with a new pop-up concept designed to increase foot traffic.
  • The store, called Story, features a curated selection of products based on rotating themes. The first is Colour Story, and includes rooms of whimsical and monochromatic items.
  • We visited Story at Macy’s famous Herald Square location in New York City to see how the department store is using experiential retail to help drive sales.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

On a recent afternoon at Macy’s, a young woman visiting the Story pop-up struck a sultry pose in front of various displays – beams draped in fuzzy red velvet, a pile of colourful inner tubes – as her shopping partner snapped photos, presumably for her to post on Instagram later.

Though the store was buzzing with people, very few appeared to actually consider purchasing the items on display as they browsed, instead taking photos along the way. For Macy’s, this was all part of the plan: As the department store looks to capitalise on the era of Instagrammable pop-up experiences in an effort to reclaim lost foot traffic, rising sales show it may just be working.

In May, the department store reported stronger-than-expected performance for the first quarter of 2019, with same-store sales increasing by 0.7%. The uptick was attributed to a variety of factors – including ongoing store renovations and e-commerce growth from Macy’s mobile app users. However, another possible catalyst may be the launch of Story, a “narrative-driven retail experience” that debuted in 36 locations in April.

Taking a cue from the success of social media phenomenons like the Museum of Ice Cream and Rosé Mansion, Macy’s saw an opportunity to build its own Instagram-friendly experience with the help of Story, the New York City-based boutique it acquired in 2018. Led by Rachel Shectman – the founder of Story and now its brand experience officer for Macy’s – the pop-up chooses themes and then curates a rotating selection of products that fit the topic every few months.


Read more:
Macy’s same-store sales top expectations

The first iteration of Story is “Colour Story” and features more than 400 products from a wide assortment of brands, ranging from major name brands like MAC Cosmetics, Levi’s, and Crayola, to lesser known indie retailers.

Here’s an inside look at how Macy’s is looking to experiential retail to stay afloat and carve a niche among its department store peers.


The New York City Story is located within the famous Macy’s Herald Square location, best known as host of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade and the setting of “Miracle on 34th Street.”

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Story is situated on the mezzanine level of the nine-story Macy’s building. As we passed a dizzying number of cosmetic counters, we finally found an escalator leading directly up to the pop-up.

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But first, we took a walk through Story’s neon rainbow tunnel, located next to the escalator. It’s a perfect Instagram spot, and the first place Macy’s encourages you to tag @Story in posts, along with the hashtag #StoryatMacys.

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The GE-powered rainbow tunnel uses Tetra Contour, a customisable LED system.


Up we go…

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Right when you walk in, there’s a vibrant sign welcoming shoppers to the store.

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There’s also a guide to the shop, explained using “chapters” with titles like “Paint The Town Red” and “Orange You Glad You Came.”

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Even the colour-block carpet was specially designed for Story by Flor, a custom tile and area rug company.

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“Look down and prepare to be floored,” reads one of several “Hue Should Know” informational signs posted throughout the store. We see what you did there.


First, we visited the red room.

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Unlike the carnal pleasures of the infamous Fifty Shades of Grey red room, this included an eclectic mix of trendy scarlet-hued items like headphones, soap, candles, notebooks, and gummy bears.

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In true ROYGBV fashion, the orange room was located adjacent to red. This included a similar mix of whimsical home goods and knickknacks.

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Ditto the yellow room.

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The green room was filled with tons of avocado-themed items, an obvious play for millennial shoppers.

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Have you heard the one about how how millennials aren’t buying homes because they’re spending all their money on avocado toast?


In between the monochromatic rooms, we found interactive areas like this one, where shoppers can customise wallets and purses with their initials.

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Behind the wallet station there was a wall of customisation inspiration, along with other goodies available for purchase.

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For the beauty buffs, Story has a section devoted to customised MAC colour palettes, where shoppers can choose their favourite shades and emblazon them with images and emojis.

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On our way to the blue and violet rooms, we found the mesmerising Story Wall, designed by David Stark Design + Production to look like the popular children’s toy Lite-Brite.

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Shoppers can move lights around to spell out custom messages.


In the blue room, we found even more whimsy.

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The purple area included items like crystals and an accompanying book “The Crystal Companion.”

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There was so much neon lighting.

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But Story’s not just for millennial and Gen Z shoppers. There’s also a section for kids.

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The kids area is loaded with Crayola crayons and colourful picnic tables where they can draw and play.

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However, there were no kiddos to be seen on a recent Thursday afternoon.


There’s even a wall display made entirely of green crayons.

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After we saw all of the colour rooms, we worked our way around the perimeter to find the exit.

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But wait, there’s more. The New York City Story has a section dedicated to — you guessed it — New York-themed paraphernalia.

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Then we discovered there’s a lounge area where you can buy cotton candy.

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The cotton candy comes in unique flavours like key lime and banana.

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You can even play a round of ping-pong if it suits your fancy.

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Ultimately, Story was a visual playground, ripe for vibrant Instagram backdrops.

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We left feeling slightly overstimulated and empty-handed, but otherwise enjoyed our visit.

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