Macy’s gets pointers from Hointer on fighting Amazon

Discussion
Aug 19, 2015
George Anderson

A RetailWire story in 2013 asked, "Is Hointer the Future of U.S. Clothing Stores?" That question remains to be answered, but a new report from Bloomberg suggests the company’s unique system of displaying merchandise combined with an automated system that delivers clothes directly to customers in their fitting rooms, may play an important role in Macy’s department stores going forward.

Hointer, founded by Nadia Shouraboura, a former executive at Amazon, works by using mannequins or racks to display a single fashion item. Shoppers use the company’s app to connect with tags on items they are interested in trying on. They then go to their own personal fitting room where the items are waiting. The fitting room is equipped with a tablet on the wall. Customers can select additional sizes, colors, etc., which are then delivered in the same manner.

In a video on Bloomberg, Ms. Shouraboura said, "It is about enabling the customer to try on many items, to see the beauty of the collection, but not have to lug your clothes to the fitting room or go in and out, dress, undress, go back and forward from the fitting room. And it’s about making shopping fun."

[Image: Hointer]

Macy’s, according to Bloomberg, recently changed its women’s swimsuit and athletic department in Manhattan Beach, CA from its standard merchandising display to the Hointer system. Customers shop the store with items displayed on mannequins. When they find items they want to try on, they use their Macy’s app to have them sent to fitting rooms.

Ms. Shouraboura described the cost of turning Macy’s existing fitting rooms to a Hointer-like version as minimal. She also said experience shows that shoppers go into fitting rooms with a couple of items and wind up trying on many more, leading to increased purchases in the store.

"The ability to leverage their (Macy’s) store base really differentiates them from the majority of e-commerce players," Bridget Weishaar, an analyst at Morningstar Investment Services, told Bloomberg’s Lindsey Rupp. "They have over 900 stores and so the easier they make it to get the product to the customer as quickly as possible is going to give them an edge."

Do you see Macy’s expanding the Hointer merchandise display and fitting room system to a large numbers of its stores over the next couple of years? What particular challenges, operational or otherwise, do you think retailers using this system will have to face, for example, during particularly heavy shopping periods?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"In theory, this sounds like a fast and efficient system. In theory. Connectivity issues can jettison the entire experience and leave the customer stranded in the fitting room not able to get product or connect with a human for assistance."
"The more you make the in-store shopping experience impersonal, I believe, the less reason there is to go to the store."
"I would imagine that many of the issues retailers using this system would face would be fairly similar to those faced in shoe departments. Having enough staff on hand to keep inventory organized and interactions running smoothly will be essential."

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11 Comments on "Macy’s gets pointers from Hointer on fighting Amazon"


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Marge Laney
Guest
4 years 9 months ago

In theory, this sounds like a fast and efficient system. In theory. Connectivity issues can jettison the entire experience and leave the customer stranded in the fitting room not able to get product or connect with a human for assistance. Sort of like a bad online experience, only standing naked in a fitting room!

One thing I’ve learned over my twenty plus years in fitting rooms is that any technology that you put in the fitting room must be uncomplicated, intuitive for both the customer and the associate, and work nearly 100 percent of the time or customers will not engage.

The whole Hointer experience raises the question: Why bother making the trip to the store? If I can only try on and not take it with me, why not just order online and try on at home and make my decision?

Chris Petersen, PhD.
Guest
4 years 9 months ago

The future of retail apparel is changing dramatically and is here today in a couple of forms. Consumers now have unprecedented choice in formats.

On the one hand, consumers can opt for Trunk or Stitch Fix and have selections curated by their “stylist” delivered to the privacy of their home.

On the other hand, Hointer enables physically shopping a store and having selections delivered to the private, personal fitting room.

Macy’s is in the enviable position of being able to offer and develop both options, plus some version of their stores today. Future store success is about both trips and conversion rates. The Hointer model has the opportunity to increase conversion and sales with a lot less inventory on the floor.

Amazon is projected to become number one in apparel in the U.S. Macy’s is at a strategic crossroads. It would be very smart to adopt a Hointer model to offer consumers an “online experience in-store” with a physical touch experience that Amazon can’t offer online.

Bob Phibbs
Guest
4 years 9 months ago

The more you make the in-store shopping experience impersonal, I believe, the less reason there is to go to the store.

Zel Bianco
Guest
4 years 9 months ago

This is an excellent way to use technology to make the shopper’s experience more enjoyable and encourage them to make more purchases. I would not be surprised if this became standard practice in the future — so it would make sense for Macy’s to being implementing it now.

I would imagine that many of the issues retailers using this system would face would be fairly similar to those faced in shoe departments. Having enough staff on hand to keep inventory organized and interactions running smoothly will be essential.

Ed Dunn
Guest
4 years 9 months ago

The “chutes” part is novelty and impersonal in addition to being an expensive implementation. I would recommend that component be discarded from the workflow.

On the third floor men’s shoe department at Macy’s at Lenox Mall here in Atlanta, the shoe salesperson uses an iPod to request shoes from the backroom where a “runner” retrieves and brings out the shoe for me to try on. I really enjoy the seamless experience where the salesperson still talks to me while a background task of retrieving the shoe is handled by a dedicated resource.

I would recommend Hointer and Macy’s drop the “chute” component and hire people to bring the apparel to the fitting room the same way a hotel brings special guest service to a room. Then alert the customer via mobile that their fitting room and clothing is ready. This is a more personal experience.

Aakash Pahwa
Guest
Aakash Pahwa
4 years 9 months ago

Macy’s including Hointer is an addition or extra or a more-to-come closer to the Millennials. The Hointer applicability will be selective, example: the shoe department. Consumers still go in the store to touch and feel.

I wonder about the impact on front-line retail jobs. Are they going to end up inventory organizers? Connectivity (free Wi-Fi required), privacy and data security are all other legitimate challenges.

Martin Mehalchin
Guest
Martin Mehalchin
4 years 9 months ago

My team wrote the article back in 2013 and I’ve taken clients on tours of Hointer’s concept store in Seattle so I am very familiar with this system. I actually think the Hointer system and other similar showroom models like the one being deployed by Bonobos can make the shopping experience more personal. By eliminating the need to have staff maintaining a balanced presentation of items and size runs on the floor it frees up their time to exclusively focus on interacting with customers. Bottom line, this type of technology can improve both high-touch and low-touch environments while also offering retailers significant inventory efficiencies.

Carol Spieckerman
Guest
4 years 9 months ago

I’ve wondered which smart, high-profile apparel retailer would partner up with Ms. Shouraboura ever since I conducted an extensive interview with her a while back.  

Her solution is so right for the retail times and it takes a forward-thinking retailer to get that and to understand the value of leveraging others’ platforms rather than tweaking antiquated systems. With the holiday shopping season around the corner, this is an exciting and well-timed partnership for both parties.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
4 years 9 months ago

And how, exactly, does the merchandise make it back to…wherever it was “chuted” from if—perish the thought!—the customer decides she (or he) doesn’t want to buy everything (a likely occurrence)? This seems like a basic issue, yet I saw no mention of it.

Indeed, I saw no mention of ANY of the fitting room issues that face Macy’s now (out of stocks; messy, poorly maintained rooms; shrinkage; and stocking issues from—you guessed it—merchandise sitting in the rooms and not being returned to stock). Technology can be great, but if it expands your problems rather than solving them, I can’t see it helping.

Lee Peterson
Guest
4 years 9 months ago

The idea of a showroom store is not new (Service Merchandise), but it’s becoming more and more relevant. Many retailers should do it, like Staples, Pier 1, even Home Depot. And, hello, it’s been working on a mass scale for quite some time…as with IKEA! What’s the delay?

In any case, I applaud Macy’s for trying, if they do, and to keep the innovation rolling. Hopefully this will encourage many others to follow and make better use of their space. The warehouse days are over. We all have one in our hands now.

Lee Kent
Guest
4 years 9 months ago
Do you know how many swim suits a woman will try on in order to find just one? I love Hointer for certain things and I think Macy’s nailed this one on the head! If a woman tries on an ill-fitting bathing suit, she doesn’t want ANYONE to see her in it. She is also pretty near naked and the thought of dressing to go look for more is not a happy thought. I have spoken to Nadia about the whole Hointer concept when I first heard about it and was very skeptical about the customer experience. When you look into it more deeply, you will find that the technology allows Hointer to hire more employees at the stylist level because they need fewer on the floor. Also, while you are in the dressing room the stylist is making recommendations, behind the scenes, based on your picks and asking if you’d like them sent to you. And to clear another thing up, you do walk out of the store with the item. There is a… Read more »
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Braintrust
"In theory, this sounds like a fast and efficient system. In theory. Connectivity issues can jettison the entire experience and leave the customer stranded in the fitting room not able to get product or connect with a human for assistance."
"The more you make the in-store shopping experience impersonal, I believe, the less reason there is to go to the store."
"I would imagine that many of the issues retailers using this system would face would be fairly similar to those faced in shoe departments. Having enough staff on hand to keep inventory organized and interactions running smoothly will be essential."

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