How do you create a bona fide “fragrance destination” for shoppers? Just ask Jeff Gennette, Macy’s, Inc. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, who has positioned Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, and Bluemercury as precisely that. The enterprising leader, who has been honored with the prestigious 2022 TFF Hall of Fame Award, has long understood the power of storytelling and interactive experience in fragrance retail. He has made fragrance central to the shopping experience, intuitively recognizing how intrinsically connected it is with fashion and beauty.
This understanding comes from experience. Gennette began his nearly four-decade retail career in 1983 as an executive trainee at Macy’s West in San Francisco. In March of 2017, Gennette was elected Chief Executive Officer of Macy’s, Inc., and Chairman in February 2018. Over the years, he has served in key roles as EVP and Director of Stores for Macy’s Central, and as Chief Merchandising Officer, keeping fragrance front-and-center in the retailer’s merchandising mix.
Gennette’s deep understanding of the consumer — from how they wish to move through a store to how they buy, use, and gift scent — has propelled Macy’s, Inc. to the top tier of fragrance retail. Even more meaningful is the tone that he has set: His commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion has positioned Macy’s, Inc. as a role model in making the fragrance world open and equitable for all.
What does it mean to you to receive the Fragrance Foundation Hall of Fame Award?
I am incredibly honored to be receiving this award, but most importantly, I think it’s a testament to the role Macy’s, Inc. has played in elevating and growing the fragrance industry. I humbly accept this award on behalf of my entire team and our valued fragrance partners, without whom this wouldn’t be possible.
What led you to first join Macy’s?
Macy’s is well known in the industry for its executive development program, and the opportunity at a young age to get management experience was what first drew me to the company. I thought I would stay a couple of years and then go to business school, but here I am four decades later. I wouldn’t change a thing.
What lessons did you learn early on in your career at Macy’s that have continued to be relevant in your role as Chairman and CEO?
There are two lessons that still guide me today. One, is the importance of being your authentic self. When you can come to the workplace living your truth, you can fully engage, innovate and bring different viewpoints to the table. The other is to always focus on the customer. Without an unwavering focus on what is right for the customer, you can’t successfully lead a retail business.
What have been your proudest career achievements?
Hopefully that will continue to evolve over time, but right now I would say that I’m most proud of successfully steering Macy’s, Inc. through the most challenging parts of the Covid-19 pandemic. Our team really came together to recover the business and emerge as a healthier and stronger company. I’m so proud of the incredible work that all my colleagues did to continue to deliver for our customers during this unprecedented time.
How and why is fragrance so important to Macy’s?
The Fragrance business is important for our company because it evokes powerful, emotional connections for our customers. Together with our fragrance partners, we have built the business into a powerhouse in the beauty industry, giving customers the opportunity to discover new scents that complement their unique personal style.
What are some of the key ways that you keep customers engaged with fragrance at Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and Bluemercury?
We continue to invest in the fragrance shopping experience across our stores and digital platforms.
We’ve developed rich, creative, sensory experiences that support this emotional purchase. This includes collaborations with our valued partners on product launches, storytelling and leveraging customized digital tools that enable us to bring the very best of the in-store experience to online shoppers.
It is also important for us to innovate and find new ways to engage our customers with the fragrance business through experiences like our recent integration of scents into the Macy’s Flower Show. We’ve also continued to inspire discovery through digital channels as showcased by our live shopping programming on Macys.com and Bloomingdales.com.
What have been the biggest changes you have seen in consumer behavior regarding fragrance over the years?
We have seen fragrance explode as the perfect gift for any occasion. Today we enjoy a strong business in custom gift sets and baskets for all gifting holidays. It’s not only a staple gift for Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day, but fragrances have also become the go-to gift for marking special moments in people’s lives. We have also seen customers evolve to become true fragrance connoisseurs, increasingly knowledgeable and discerning about what makes a fragrance unique and how that fits with their personal style.
How would you characterize the current state of fragrance retail?
The business continues to expand, adding new and returning customers to the category. The past couple of years have further highlighted the importance of fragrance and scent memory for our customers. Fragrances reminded them of locations they missed or special memories during these trying years. They have also become the perfect self-treat for those seeking a pick-me-up.
What do you predict for the future of fragrance retail?
The next evolution in the business has begun. We’ve started to see how the customer is seeing fragrance as part of their whole lifestyle. They want scent for themselves, their home, car and office. They are making fragrance an essential part of their ecosystem. We also see a huge opportunity for growth, particularly in the luxury segment.
How does TFF’s DEI initiative #FragranceForwardTFF resonate with Macy’s values and practices?
Macy’s, Inc. and The Fragrance Foundation both see diversity, equity and inclusion as bedrock values. They are paramount to creating an equitable future that allows colleagues to be their authentic selves, that reflects and values diverse customers, and one that supports our shared communities. We applaud the work that The Fragrance Foundation is doing to create a more equitable world for all.