If you pay a visit to Macy’s flagship store in New York, you’ll find more than just clothing, accessories, and home goods. The store, overlooking Herald Square, is also home to the company’s only restaurant — at least for now.
Macy’s and other retailers looking to beat slumping sales could take up a century-old strategy to attract customers: opening restaurants inside their stores.
The idea, first proposed by retail expert Warren Shoulberg at the Robin Report, is to make the stores a destination for consumers, not just a place to buy a new pair of pants.
The restaurants would attract customers for the food, but once they’re inside, they’ll be more likely to stay and shop, the Robin Report surmises.
“Those first merchants of retailing knew what today’s generation is having to relearn: that retail stores are more than a place to buy stuff,” Shoulberg writes for the Robin Report. “They are the centerpieces of communities, focal points where people gathered for special occasions, to mark moments in their lives and to celebrate. And oh, while they were doing all of that, maybe they bought a new shirt or a frying pan.
Macy’s flagship store currently operates a restaurant called Stella 34 Trattoria that offers upscale food and cocktails to shoppers. Shoulberg suggests that once again incorporating the food strategy into retail space could help turn around sales for that company that’s in the process of closing 40 stores.
“There is no small irony in the fact that retailers of the 21st century continue to look to their ancestors of the 19th for inspiration,” he writes. “In the dumbing down of American retailing that we saw through most of the back half of the last century so much got lost and discarded. Now, in the their desperate attempt at reinvention, they are going back to what got them started in the first place.”
Although many retailers, like Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus, have incorporated restaurants into their flagship stores, some companies are wading into the food business on a larger scale.
Urban Outfitters bought restaurant group the Vetri Family, a small cain known for Italian fare, last year. Since then the company has opened several cafes inside its stores, including a Pizzeria Vetri and a Symon’s Burger Joint in Austin.
IKEA announced last week that it would give all its U.S.-based restaurants a makeover. The reasoning: some people just stop by for food, not furniture.
Can Food Save American Retailing? [The Robin Report]