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No trip to New York would be complete without a visit to the famous Macy's department store. Macy's takes up the whole block between 7th Ave and Broadway. Given it's proximity to hotel I was staying in it was always going to be paid at least one visit during my time in New York. The store on West 34th Street is the companies flag ship store. Macy's has 200 other stores around the USA.
Macy's was founded by Rowland Macy in October 1857, from the humble beginnings of a storefront in the lower regions of Manhattan it has now become a worldwide department store, famed for it's" Thanksgiving Parade" which was first started in the 20's by some immigrant staff consisting of a few floats which meandered it's way throw Manhattan watched by 10,000 people. Today the Thanksgiving Parade is one of the top New York events. It is thought that on the day of the Thanksgiving Parade some extra 75,000 pay a visit to Macy's.
In 1870, Macy's became the first store to "do" Christmas with the first ever Father Christmas in residence. Today Father Christmas and his band of upwards of 200 helpers is still going strong with people traveling from all parts of the US to visit Father Christmas at Macy's.
Macy's moved to it's present home on West 34th St in 1902, it expanded again on the present site with the 7th Avenue extension in 1924, making it then the worlds largest department store. Macy's during the 20's and 30's lead a line of new ideas into the world of shopping. Coloured bath towels, clothing lines in standardized sizing and different colours were introduced. it was Macy's Chief food buyer in 1912 who actually invented the tea bag!
Given it's long history, you'd be forgiven into thinking that Macy's was a pretentious up market store. Having visited Saks on 5th Ave and left feeling it was reminiscent of as my traveling companion so eloquently put it "Edmonton Market" with all the dark wood and in all honest the price tags scared me -I for one was looking for a bargain!I did have my doubts as to what Macy's would be like. I had visions of some upper crust store with snooty sale assistants, this was far from what we actually found. Given it's Midtown location it's understandable that it's going to pitch itself at office workers and families and not the Starlets, woman that do lunch and the like who reside around the 5th Avenue area of Manhattan. Macy's could be compared in all honesty with your local department store, but with one difference the prices. The pound isn't very strong at present but you can still grab a bargain or 10 as Iain ( Soho Black) soon discovered.
The one thing about Macy's is it is big, but still manages to keep a sense of smallness with adequate sign posting. The entrance on 7th Avenue is not as impressive as the main entrance over on Broadway. On entering the 7th Avenue extension you are immediately in the men's ware part of the store. This ground floor men's department was a slight let down being mainly jam packed with what I'd describe as men's work wear,here you'll find suits by Calvin Klein, Hugo Boss and the like, by taking one of the many lifts or escalators down to the basement you then find yourself in what Macy's describe as their younger man's section, here you'll have wall to wall jean's, casual tops and designer trainers to mention a few of the mirade of items sold. What I did notice in this section was the lack of named jeans -I was after Levi's having heard they were so cheap in the States I wanted to go home with at least one pair of Levi's. Designer named jeans can actually be found on floor 1b - a short lift or escalator ride away. It was here I finally got to realize that Iain could actually shop. Noted for his love of books and Cd's he suddenly became a man could shop in this Aladdin's cave of retail goodies. With an armful of well known makes of jeans by Levi , Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger at prices that were silly compared to the UK prices ( Levis retailing at $29.99 plus State tax) he wondered off to try them on as I decided to hit the Cosmetic/ Perfume section back on the ground f.floor.
As with all big department stores Macy's Cosmetic/Perfume department was a treasure trove of lotions and potions and smellies by a wide range of manufacturers. Here you'll find Clinique and Chanel, Calvin Klein and Elizabeth Arden along with a mirade of other well known brands. Unfortunately they do not appear to have an Yves St Laurent Beauty counter which was a shame as I was hoping ot be able to buy a new touché éclat whilst I was there. One thing that I did noticed whilst in this bastion of female domination was how many male members of staff were actually working on the cosmetic/perfume counters. As with all cosmetic counters free make overs were the order of the day with practically ever counter having some female perched on a stool as her make up was re-applied. Elizabeth Arden and Clinique are probably my two favourite cosmetic producers for skin care products. Prior to the trip I'd already stocked up via Ebay on some Elizabeth Arden goodies so in all honesty I only gave the counter a courtesy glance as I made my way over to the Clinique counter -far the biggest in the department. What first struck me was the prices, I'm now convinced that when an American produced cosmetic is exported over here all the manufactor does is knock of the $ sign and add a £ sign in it's place.I've always had a phobia about those woman that work on cosmetic counters -avoiding eye contact at all cost, but here I actually found them to be helpful and not just doing a hard sell. I went away very happy with a bagful of Clinique goodies.
Iain at this point armed with carrier bag after carrier bag stuffed full of Levis, decided he needed trainers so disappeared up the street to the many sports shops
I like pulling pants, so obviously the lingerie department on the 6th floor was going to get a visit from me. La Senza is my favourite manufactor of pulling pants, but what I was hoping was to find some Victoria secrets lingerie having heard so much about them. unfortunately the lingerie department was a complete let down for me. Given over mainly to Calvin Klein Lingerie that really didn't appeal then to your normal run of the mill pants and bra's. My advice here is if you want pulling pants don't shop at Macy's. I'm led to believe that Iain was given some very funny looks as he tried to find me in the mirade of non pulling pants.!
On my way back down, I had a look at the woman's clothing notable labels being DKNY, Ralph Lauren, Guess, Espirit and good old Calvin Klein. again what did strike me was the prices, if you were going to max up credit card you'd definitely stumble out armed with one hellva load of carrier bags a bit like someone I know really. The shop department was a bit of a let down - why is it New yorkers have such small feet?
In my search for Urban decay cosmetic I found myself in their junior department on the 4th floor, here you'll find a wide range of designer named jeans, T shirts etc for woman. along with a rather empty Urban Decay self service counter and cosmetics by Hard Candy -prices again are excellent if you compare them to what you'd pay over here in the UK. Sketchers -a trainers manufactor also have a franchise on this floor again why do New Yorkers have such small feet??
My visit to Macy really was a whistle stop tour of the store, many floors didn't actually get visited so I've only given you an over view of the areas that I actually went to. One thing I did notices that the staff were polite and more than willing to help. I would suggest if at all possible you went in the early evening as having worked past the shop during the day it was jam packed!
Macy's 151 W. 34th St. (Midtown West) near Broadway 212-695-4400
When I went to Macy's I couldn't go round it all in one hit - it was too big to cope with! When I worked in America for a few weeks I brought back so many bargains - especially from cosmetics - I would listen on the radio and each week would go to wear the latest Clinique bonus time was being held and stock up and get free gifts at the same time!! By the way, you need to change shop department to shoe department. Janet