The operating rules of enormous department store chains have changed a lot in the past decade. Once relegated to the suburbs, outlet and clearance divisions have inched ever closer to major full-line shopping neighborhoods, with the latest example being a great big Nordstrom Rack store set to open in about a month at 855 Sixth Avenue at 31st Street, just a few blocks south of Macy's Herald Square and the sprawling collection of mall-stores that spill across the stretch of 34th street west of Fifth Avenue.
A glance at the windows pictured above tells us that the store will open its doors in about a month on October 26th, and if it looks like it will be pretty big with the entirety of the first two floors of the new building, consider that with the lower level as well, the store will total about 47,000 square feet over three floors. That makes it one of the larger Rack stores around, especially in a location like Manhattan where space is always at a premium.
It has been decades since a major out of town retailer has attempted to crack Manhattan's powerhouse ranks of home-grown retail palaces, but as once sterling names like Gimbel's, Bonwit Teller, B.Altman and Abraham & Straus have fallen over the years, there's a little more room for more competition now. JCPenney of Plano TX, has only managed to get in with an innocuous subterranean location taking up a mere fraction of the building that once housed the entirety of the mighty Gimbel's, but the pride and joy of Dallas, Neiman Marcus, is on its way with an unconventional store in a yet to be completed Hudson Yards tower. The big event on deck, however is Nordstrom's Columbus Circle flagship slated for 2019. The chain has managed to slyly whet New Yorkers' appetites first by taking on the suburbs surrounding the tri-state area where it is now a mainstay. Next, it made Manhattan safe for Department Stores' outlet divisions by opening a Rack unit where the Union Square Virgin Megastore once stood, paving the way for a Saks Off 5th appearing on tony East 57th Street, a once unthinkable location for such an establishment, only seven blocks north of its lavish full-price namesake. Before the splashy Nordstrom flagship debuts, however, its 3-level Men's Store will serve as an extended preview when it opens across Broadway this coming Spring. By the time the Mother ship opens its doors, Manhattanites should be chomping at the bit as if it is one of our own illustrious chains. As for the upcoming Rack, its sheer size suggests that it will be just like the Rack stores we have come to know, but bigger, which outlet shoppers know, is almost always better. By now we all know that most of what these stores carry is either overstock or merchandise made expressly for selling in "outlet" venues. That doesn't mean that they aren't worth your shopping dollars, and Nordstrom Rack at least makes the effort to specially tag items that have indeed come from their full-line stores. It's never a bad idea to catch the opening weeks of such a store either, as off-price chains have been known to pepper their opening offerings with particularly enticingly priced merchandise to ingratiate themselves with new customers. If you happen to have a reason to make your way through the Herald and Greely Square neighborhoods in about a month, you might find yourself making a habit of it.
With new iPhones and Apple Watches on the way comes the news that Macy's will open Apple's first full in-store shop at its Herald Square flagship next month. While 180 additional Macy's locations will be selling Apple Watches, this will be the tech behemoth's first in-store shop inside a U.S. Department store, and it will also carry iPhones, iPads MacBooks as well as other items and accessories for a more complete brand presentation. According to WWD, the shop will be set up on the main floor of the store's Broadway side which is devoted to makeup and accessories including in-store boutiques from Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Burberry. While Macy's Herald Square is known to have several leased in-store departments like Vuitton and Gucci, it is unclear at the moment whether the new shop will be operated by Apple or Macy's itself, but it could serve as a test for similar arrangements in other prominent flagship locations in the chain such as Chicago or San Francisco, or perhaps as a model to be adopted by other retailers as well. In recent months, Macy's has been struggling to right-size its sprawling fleet of stores cobbled together from several different department store chains as the result of a series of mergers over the past couple of decades. The luster from Apple's desirable product offerings may help the chain to attract new customers as it tightens up its retail footprint.
It is true that for a lot of New Yorkers, Macy's Herald Square, the city's most famous retail landmark, is generally to be avoided at all costs. It is the city resident's natural aversion to attractions that are bound to be clogged with slack-jawed tourists, and Macy's remains one of New York's top attractions for visitors.
However, the immense store's ongoing renovations have made the once dingy store brighter, more pleasant and easier to shop despite all the tourists, and if you ever plan to venture to the World's Largest Store, go before the end of next week when it is stuffed with lushly arranged flowers. Yes, it's time for Macy's Flower Show. For over 40 years, the store has heralded the arrival of Spring by festooning the main floor with blooming blossoms and greenery, and now that the main floor has been upgraded and refreshed it looks all the better as a temporary botanical garden. In addition, the store offers all kinds of workshops and special events.
Still need a reason?
It's actually Spring right now, even though we can hardly tell. After yet another dreary, seemingly endless winter, we could all do with a taste of warmer months to come, so it's worth a little detour to Herald Square even if it's just for a few moments to lift your winter-numbed spirits.
Macy's Flower Show Through April 4 at Herald Square, Midtown
There are so many Urban Outfitters branches in New York City now that it hardly bears noting whenever a new one opens, but the chain has now entered the Mega-Flagship phase where it needs to prove that it can be more than the store that you think you already know.
Has it succeeded?
Last month its Space Ninety 8 concept store debuted in Williamsburg, but now in a more heavily trafficked area, Urban Outfitters' "lifestyle" store quietly opened its doors over the weekend just across the street from the northeast corner of Macy's Herald Square. It's is surprising that one of Manhattan's most important shopping neighborhoods didn't already have a branch of the chain, but, making a belated entry, its thirteenth in the area, the triple-sized store has put on its best, tidiest face for the throngs of tourists it hopes to capitalize on. We aren't really sure that this location carries that much more merchandise than your average cluttery UO location, but the design scheme allows for a much more spacious presentation, so racks are not crammed with goods. The shoe sections for both men and women are noticeably expanded and much easier to shop. Despite the generally stripped down, brick walls and plywood decor that we have come to expect, the store lacks that dusty basement ambiance that is the chain's (possibly unintentional) signature. Someone has clearly taken a vacuum cleaner and several feather dusters to the place, which makes all the difference. The merchandise throughout seems typical of the chain, but emphasizes its more upscale items with less reliance on the lower-end trend triven private labels and more on branded goods. There is also more room for elaborate displays like the huge camper at the center of the main floor section that also launches the chain's new fitness line, Without Walls. Activewear is a new direction for Urban Outfitters which often seems to cater more to college students who sit around and get high and their somewhat more sedentary activities. The section also boasted streetwear from the L.A. brand Undefeated, but, sadly, none of their coveted sneaker collaborations. The home section, upstairs on the women's leve, was also departure. While this has always seemed like a particularly dorm room driven department, here you will find a somewhat more sophisticated point of view. While we thought that, particularly since it was right near Macy's, this would be an opportunity to expand the store's typical offerings, this section was surprisingly small, focused mostly on candles and pillows. Perhaps they needed to make room for the store's exclusive attractions. As in the Williamsburg store, Intelligentsia Coffee has a prominent spot at the entrance, and Amoeba Music from Los Angeles, one of the last actual record stores left, has a significant amount of floor space where it offers a selection of new and vintage vinyl records, offering a "cool" factor that this chain desperately needs to maintain. There's also a stand for Tortoise & Blonde eyewear, one of the many full-service online eyewear brands that have materialized in the wake of Warby parker's runaway internet success.
The question here is whether all of this is enough to make customers bypass their more convenient, local Urban Outfitters, or even return to the chain after outgrowing it for more grown-up fare. Since hardly anyone knew that the store is open at all, we had a fairly relaxing visit to the store over the weekend. Given the intense foot traffic in the neighborhood, we expect that it will generally be much more crowded in the coming weeks, but if Urban Outfitters can maintain the less cluttered ambiance and keep the goods on the more grown-up side of things, then we would definitely consider a return visit. Have a look at the new store in the gallery below, and decide for yourself.
The Sample Sale Schedule takes a much needed rest this week, and so should you be. There should be enough department store and designer boutique clearances going on to keep everyone busy enough, but in the event that you are a hopeless addict and constitutionally unable to avoid sample sales, we can enable you with a few events like the continuations of A.P.C.'s clearance and Earnest Sewn's boutique closing sales in the West Village through tomorrow.
Later in the month, there will be more big sales from Max Azria's BCBG and Hervé Léger collections as well as a popular off-site, end-of-season clearance from the Upper East Side's Fivestory that will take place at the Bowery Hotel, so save up and mark your calendars.
The one big event on the schedule for this week is the gigantic bonanza known as the Shoe-Inn Annual Warehouse Sale at Gotham Hall near Macy's Herald Square on Thursday. Yes, here is one more opportunity to claw your way through crowds of other like-minded ladies for deep discounts on designer shoes including popular labels like Michael Kors, Tory Burch, Marc Jacobs, Vera Wang and so many others. Reportedly, there will be over 7,000 pairs of shoes and boots to be snapped up with shoes priced at $25, $50, $75 and $99, and boots similarly staggered from $50 to $199.
Football padding might be in order.
See our SALE ROLL sidebar at left for hours and more details as well as any late-breaking events that cross our desk.
Have a Happy New Year, and The Shophound will see you in January.
Every time we get a glimpse of the dramatic top-to-bottom renovation at Macy's Herald Square we are more and more impressed. Earlier this month, the store unveiled more of it's revived main floor Men's (pictured at right) and Cosmetic (top left) departments banishing what was once a dreary interior for a pristine white on white decor and dramatic Hollywood style lighting. When the whole store is finally finished New Yorkers who have sworn of setting foot inside the store could conceivably be lured back as customers —that is if they can stand the throngs of tourists who are the impetus behind the extensive renovations in the first place. In recent press articles about the store's new look, Macy's executives have made it clear that the gigantic Herald Square flagship is one of the city's biggest tourist attractions, and as such has a responsibility to represent the Macy's brand at its best and brightest. Those tourists, particularly the free-spending international ones are why the new main floor is home to a hugely expanded leased Louis Vuitton boutique as well as brand new leased shops from Gucci, Longchamps and Burberry that are somewhat richer than typical Macy's fare. New, more expensive brands have also seeped into the refreshed cosmetic and fragrance areas, and as the store continues to be redone, customers can expect to see merchandise that pushes the upper price limit of what one expects to find at Macy's.
That's all great for the historic Herald Square flagship. It should be taking advantage of every opportunity that its status creates, but what about the other 797 Macy's stores all over America that tourists don't get to? Are they getting a facelift too? Will they share in any of the splendor that is being lavished on the Macy's Mothership?
Our guess is: Probably not.
Since today's Macy's has been cobbled together from bits and pieces of around 70 different department store chains, it comprises a lot of stores that started out as something else. In many cases, as a result of mergers and acquisitions, were swiftly converted into Macy's stores with little more than a change of signage. To compare the lavish renovations on 34th street with another, humbler Macy's, The Shophound took a quick subway ride to downtown Brooklyn and visited the branch at 422 Fulton Street (top, right). It has been a Macy's since 1993, when the local Abraham & Straus chain was absorbed into the chain. The building is historic itself as the flagship for A&S as it was known, and with six full selling floors is actually the second largest Macy's store in the New York area behind Herald Square. It's one of the biggest in the chain. Is Macy's tending to this flagship-sized branch store as well? Not so much.
Walking through the main floor, we could see that the major part of the building, built in 1929, had the bones of grand and elegant emporium, much of which has been trampled over the years, and though major remnants remain, Macy's is not doing much to make the best of them. You can see a beautifully designed Jazz Age carved marble and brass entryway from inside the Fulton Street entrance (above left), though, sadly, someone has slapped unsightly wiring over it. The bank of 10 elevators at the center of the store (at right) was famous for its dazzling Deco design, and even though one side is no longer functional and covered with selling cases, it is still impressive. Dreary elements abound, however, from the truly drab color scheme on the floor to the horrible lighting throughout the store, particularly when compared with dramatic lighting being implemented on 34th street. Every floor in Brooklyn is lit with fluorescent tubes from overhead, some in better fixtures than others. We saw broken and peeling linoleum flooring on several floors as well as carpeting that was stained and shabby in other areas. On the escalators that descend onto the main floor accessory and cosmetics area (at left), an old A&S logo is still visible on some of the glass railing panels, proving that little has been done to update the store in at least 20 years, if not longer. We don't think that management isn't noticing some of these things. We are just guessing that they aren't getting the resources to implement repairs and updates.
Continued after the jump
More information has been revealed about the dramatic makeover in store for the currently forbidding Herald Center mall at 34th Street and Sixth Avenue. The Observer has released a rendering of the building's new look from architectural firm Moed de Armas & Shannon, who have been responsible for 120 West 42nd Street and the retail expansion at the General Motors Building. As expected, the janky dark glass covering the building will be entirely removed. Sadly, nothing remains of the original, ornate façade that existed when the building was a somewhat humbler, pre-Fifth Avenue Saks (until the early 1960s, there were both a Saks Fifth Avenue and a Saks Herald Square operating in Manhattan). The building's new configuration will include brighter, clear glass covering on the three bottom stories designed to attract more upscale retailers. The upper façade will apparently be a more opaque mosaic patten, and brightly lit electronic signs also appear to be part of the scheme, although, outside of Times Square, the extent of such animated signage has a lot to do with zoning rules. While almost nothing ever winds up looking as pristine and sparkling as the renderings that precede them, if the final result looks even half as good as the picture it will be a vast improvement for the Herald Square neighborhood. It looks like current owner JEMB Realty's goal of getting Topshop or a similar type retailer as a tenant is not so farfetched after all.
Moed de Armas & Shannon To Head Herald Center Renovation (The Observer via Racked)
Retail Renewal: Herald Center Set For An Upscale Makeover
The big, dated slab of chrome and smoked glass at the corner of 34th Street and Seventh Avenue known as Herald Center is getting a long overdue renovation. WWD reports that plans are in the works to finally bring it up to date with its bustling surroundings. The luxury stores like Dunhill and Charles Jourdan that filled the mall when it was originally built in the early 1980s didn't hang around for long. After current owner JEMB Real Estate took control in 1989 from the Philippine's then president Ferdinand Marcos and his infamous wife Imelda, big box and discount stores including a 97,000 square foot Daffy's took root until that chain's demise last year. Meanwhile, upper floor space was leased by that glamorous, sought after tenant, The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles. As the 34th Street corridor became an increasingly important destination for chain store flagships like Gap, Victoria's Secret and Forever 21, and fast-fashion newcomers like H&M and Zara, Herald Center remained stagnant, seedy and a little bit forbidding on what should have been one of the strip's most desirable locations. Manhattan Mall in the former Gimbel's building lured away more popular tenants, and even today Herald Center still lacks even the most minimal online presence.
But now, as Macy's across the street continues with a sleek and shiny makeover of its own, Herald Center is being reconfigured to create three floors of contiguous retail space and will have its exterior reclad to create a new, brighter look inside and out. When it will all be finished remains to be indicated, but the redesign is meant to attract more upscale fashion retailers as opposed the off-pricers that defined the mall for the past few decades. Unsurprisingly, Topshop is said to be at the top of the list of non-discounters that JEMB is hoping to sign, along with any other full-priced stores that have yet to find a home in the area.