The fate of the lumbering behemoth known as Macy's in Brooklyn has been decided, and while the store will stay put, it will be both shrunken and dramatically overhauled.
Over the past couple of years, the Shophound has been following the state of the huge and historic but woefully out of date Macy's store in Downtown Brooklyn. The centerpiece of a renewed Fulton Street shopping corridor, the enormous nine-floor store is one of the largest in the chain, but has failed to keep up with both the newer influx of retailers to the area and the increasingly affluent population inhabiting the Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens neighborhoods that are literally in its backyard. About a year ago, Macy's officials announced a long overdue renovation for the neglected store, which began its life in 1865 as the Abraham & Straus flagship, that would renovate it from top to bottom. Surprisingly, the plan was put on hold a scant few weeks later as the store began to explore other real estate options for the valuable site including a possible sale or redevelopment of the building and a move to a smaller site nearby. The newly updated plan will include a combination of several options. Yesterday, Macy's CEO Terry Lundgren revealed a scheme that will shrink the floor from its current nine floors to the first four levels plus the basement. The upper floors will be sold to real estate developer Tishman Speyer for $170 million who will also cover the costs of the renovation below with another $100 million over the next three years.
While it sounds like the store will be substantially reduced in size, it will actually only go from 378,000 square feet of selling space on nine floors to 310,000 square feet on five. Upgrades are said to include uncovering windows to allow more light as well as renovated bathrooms, escalators and elevators along with a general refurbishment of the of the space. A walk through the store today would reveal an ungainly patchwork of poorly sequenced departments as well as an ill advised mezzanine level on half of the main floor that creates cramped shopping spaces and obscures parts of the building's original architecture. However, a closer look reveals striking Art Deco architectural details like a lavishly decorated bank of elevators at the store's center (pictured below) and carved marble frieze work framing the main entrances on Fulton and Livingston Streets (pictured above). Ultimately, it will be a few years before we see the results of the renovation, but given the store's rapidly gentrifying locale, the opportunity for a freshly made-over Macy's in Brooklyn to do big business is huge.
We were pretty sure that this was a decision that had to be made quickly, and it was. Following on the heels of
NBCUniversal, Univision and several other companies, Macy's Inc. has dropped Donald Trump merchandise from its 789 stores.
A statement released today reads:
“Macy’s is a company that stands for diversity and inclusion. We have no tolerance for discrimination in any form. We welcome all customers, and respect for the dignity of all people is a cornerstone of our culture. We are disappointed and distressed by recent remarks about immigrants from Mexico. We do not believe the disparaging characterizations portray an accurate picture of the many Mexicans, Mexican Americans and Latinos who have made so many valuable contributions to the success of our nation. In light of statements made by Donald Trump, which are inconsistent with Macy’s values, we have decided to discontinue our business relationship with Mr. Trump and will phase-out the Trump men’s wear collection, which has been sold at Macy’s since 2004.”
This comes in the wake of a moveon.org petition that garnered over 7000,000 signatures in a few days protesting the real estate mogul and declared presidential candidate's statements about Mexican immigrants earlier this month while announcing his candidacy. His characterization of them as drug-ridden criminals and rapists incensed many in the media world and caused Univision to drop the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants and NBCUniversal to also cancel the pageants as well as sever all other ties with him, effectively banning him from returning to The Celebrity Apprentice reality show should he not get elected to the highest office in America.
Macy's has sold Trump branded merchandise for about 10 years, and often used him as a spokesperson for the store most prominently in TV adds along with Martha Stewart, Tommy Hilfiger, Sean "P.Diddy" Combs and other designers and celebrities whose product lines the store carries exclusively. The most recent such personality is Mexican singer and actress Thalía, whose collections launched at the chain earlier this year in an effort to invite more Latino customers to shop at Macy's. That would, of course, be at odds with showcasing Trump's merchandise, especially as the list of companies and celebrities distancing themselves from him grows longer. WWD describes Tump and Macy's CEO Terry Lundgren as "golf buddies", and notes that Macy's has also been a supporter of the Ice Skating in Harlem program for young girls, which holds an annual benefit at Trump (formerly Wollman) Rink in Central Park. There's no word whether or not that sponsorship will continue. At this point, Donald Trump's theory that his business experience makes him a good choice for president seems only to be proving that, at least at a consumer level, politics and business are better off staying as far away from each other as possible.
And the shoe is on the other foot.
Will Donald Trump's retail partners now give him the boot as well?
Yesterday, Donald Trump who has reveled in dismissing contestants from his reality show "The Apprentice" with a curt "You're Fired!" got a taste of his own medicine when NBCUniversal announced that it would no longer air the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants which they both co-own, and end its relationship with him altogether. Initially, Spanish-language network Univision announced that it would drop the pageants in response to Trump's comments about Mexican immigrants in his speech earlier in June announcing his candidacy for the presidency. He referred to them as mostly criminals and rapists which incensed not just Mexican but many other immigrant communities from Latin America and beyond. Now that NBC has followed suit by ending its association with the real estate mogul, who had already announced he would not be hosting upcoming seasons of "The Apprentice" while he campaigns for President, attention turns to Macy's which sells men's tailored clothing, furnishings (pictured above) and home items under the Donald J. Trump and Trump Home labels as well as his fragrance called Success. WWD reports that a moveon.org petition garnered over 700,000 signatures on Monday, pressuring the store to dump Trump's brands which it carries exclusively. Trump's anti-Mexican screed has put Macy's at odds with its efforts to target Hispanic customers including a huge private brand launch earlier this year featuring Thalia, the Mexican singer and telenovela star. Macy's may be weighing its potential Thalia business against its current Trump business right now, because in classic fashion Trump has remained unapologetic about his statements, instead choosing to slam Univision and NBCU for dismissing him and his productions. Will Macy's be next in line for Trump's retaliatory vitriol? Time will tell, but this issue seems to be gaining traction rather than blowing over as the typically self congratulatory businessman discovers that being a general jerk gets taken very differently once you officially put yourself forth as a candidate for President.
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
In the general scheme of things, it's a smallish deal that could mean big things in the cosmetics industry. Yesterday afternoon Macy's announced that it had purchased exclusive beauty boutique chain Bluemercury for $210 million. The Washington DC-based beauty retailer consists of 60 stores across 18 states including six in New York City with a seventh on the way in Chelsea. The chain's current founders and CEO's will remain in place as the chain is to be run as a separate, standalone entity from the Macy's and Bloomingdale's chains, but the immense corporate backing of its new parent will now fuel the company's rapid expansion.
Industry watchers have compared the up and coming Bluemercury to the still growing beauty behemoth Sephora, whose growth spurt happened after it was acquired by luxury giant LVMH. That's not a totally accurate comparison. Though there is some crossover, Sephora stores, as they are today, tend to center around upscale but widely distributed cosmetics brands and extensive fragrance offerings, while Bluemercury's feature high end treatment lines and more exclusive makeup lines, often with spas attached. A better comparison might be England's Space NK, whose U.S. stores are mostly leased shops within Bloomingdale's locations along with just a handful of freestanding units. In its current state, Bluemercury is not the Sephora-killer that many journalists are breathlessly heralding, but it may just be a threat to Space NK, whose U.S. business is heavily dependent on leasing space within a chain that has just become a sibling to its main competitor. How that will shake out remains to be seen over the next few years. Macy's doesn't really do small, so whether Bluemercury will be transformed into a major threat to Sephora or build up its own somewhat different, more luxurious niche is the question of the moment.
Macy's snaps up beauty brand Bluemercury (Crain's)
Almost a year ago to the day, The Shophound took a jaunt down to a store we would ordinarily not have gone out of our way to visit, the Macy's flagship store in Brooklyn (pictured above).We were curious to compare state of the city's other sizable Macy's to the lavish renovations that were happening in the mother ship at Herald Square. What we found was a dingy mess of a store, but one that inhabited a historic Art Deco structure that still had some elegant bones that could have been unearthed and polished. The potential for a thoughtful, transformative renovation was high, especially since the store was well situated on a resurgent Fulton Mall and only blocks a way from Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens —what is now one of the borough's most affluent areas. About six months later, Macy's announced that indeed they were planning to refurbish the Brooklyn store to take advantage of those very things, but now WWD is reporting that the planned renovations are on hold, and may never happen. In fact, real estate in that section of Brooklyn is now so valuable ($300 - $400 per square foot) that Macys could stand to make $300 million by selling the historic building at 422 Fulton Street, demolishing it and redeveloping the site to include a new residential tower which would feature a smaller, more productive brance of Macy's on its first few floors, not unlike the the Nordstrom tower currently under construction in Manhattan. No officials from either Macy's or potential developing partners had any comments for WWD, but its sources point out that the existing building, which was originally the Abraham & Straus flagship before it was absorbed into the Macy's chain in the 1990s, is actually a combination of a few buildings with inconsistent floor plates and levels that don't line up easily from floor to floor. A proper renovation would likely be extra costly even by New York retail standards, so the idea of having a more efficient, newly built store that was "right sized" for the neighborhood would be very attractive to practical minded Macy's executives.
Of course, there is also potential in revitalizing a historic building. In its current, dingy state, Macy's Brooklyn is not attractive to the upscale communities in its backyard, but a real re-imagining of the store could unlock a valuable customer base nearby that could justify the store's large size, particularly in kitchen, bed, bath and other home goods departments that aren's as well represented in the area. That would be a nice thing for fans of historic department stores to imagine, but given the current manic character of New York real estate development and its insatiable appetite for glittering luxury towers, the demolition option seems more likely at the moment. While no firm announcements about the store's future have been made, anyone with any affection for the city's grand, old retail palaces —even the ones which aren't terribly well maintained— may want to take a visit to Macy's Brooklyn flagship. it may not be there for much longer.
Macy's Rethinking Brooklyn Unit's Future (WWD)
What Does The Macy's Renovation Mean For The Rest Of The Chain? (7.17.2013)
Macy's Plans An Overhaul For Brooklyn (1.24.2014)
Expect to see a lot of blue doe eyes under a heavy raven-haired fringe on bus shelters and subway ads this Spring as Tommy Hilfiger launches a collaboration capsule collection with actress Zooey Deschanel called To Tommy From Zooey.The first pieces of the 16-piece dress collection will arrive at Macy's stores (where Hilfiger has an exclusive agreement) on April 14th, and then a week later at the designer's own stores and on Tommy.com. Few actresses have as well defined of a personal style as the "New Girl" star. Her own vintage styles with a mod, 1960s flair inspire the line (see sketch at right). “I am a fashion fanatic, and I am always looking for new ways to incorporate vintage, feminine pieces into my own wardrobe,” the actress has officially stated. For his part, Tommy calls Deschanel, "very bright and very funny, and really down to earth, the girl next door. At the same time, she has a Jackie O type of chicness to her.” You won't have to be Jackie O to buy the collection, however, which will retail from $98 to $199. Both parties are mum on whether this will be a one-shot deal or an ongoing collaboration, but after a mini-media blitz including print, digital and outdoor advertising, we should how well Deschanel's signature, whimsical style translates into fashion. Have a look at some of Carter Smith's advertising images in the gallery below.
About six months ago, as Macy's was unveiling dramatic renovations to its immense Herald Square flagship, The Shophound took a jaunt over to Downtown Brooklyn to compare the improvements in Manhattan to the state of one of the chains other large, historic stores on Fulton Street (pictured above). We spent some time wandering the floors, noting the building's physical condition as well as its merchandising layout and reported back. It turns out that even as they lavished improvements on their cash cow on 34th Street, Macy's execs have taken a critical look at the big Brooklyn store as well. We wouldn't want to presume that The Shophound had anything to do with this happening, but, well, why not? After all, we both came to the same basic conclusion:
Macy's on Fulton street is a dump.
But not for long. Today's WWD reports that there are big plans to upgrade the building which has been a department store since 1883 when it became the flagship for Abraham & Straus, a local chain that Macy's took over in 1995. As we noted last year, little in the store has been updated since then, though it still includes original Art Deco design elements like a rotunda and a striking elevator bay that will hopefully be preserved. Macy's executives have big plans for the building which will likely become a template for renovations in the chain's many other urban flagships —They're just not exactly sure yet what those plans will be, specifically. “Brooklyn is a fantastic market,” Terry J. Lundgren, chairman, CEO and president of Macy’s Inc., tells WWD. “We are just waiting to figure out the right way to approach the Brooklyn store.” Lundgren notes that as in many department store flagships that date back to the 19th and early 20th Centuries, the current layout actually consists of more than one building cobbled together resulting in complicated floor plates that pose challenges when it comes time for major renovations, so it could be some time before they figure out how to approach the changes to be made.
While there is no specific plan or time frame for the store's renovation yet, Macy's is promising more than just cosmetic improvements for the ever more decrepit store. What is in the works is expected to be a total overhaul of the entire merchandising concept in Brooklyn to serve the rapidly changing market there as well as in other cities whose downtown neighborhoods are undergoing renewal. In recent years, Downtown Brooklyn has attracted new branches from major chains like H&M a few steps away from Macy's as well as Sephora, A|X and Uniqlo. Nordstrom Rack is coming to Fulton Street and Neiman Marcus Last Call has just announced an upcoming store in the Brooklyn Municipal Building. With such competition moving in, as well as continuing gentrification in nearby neighborhoods like Cobble Hill and Carroll gardens, It would have been irresponsible from a business standpoint for Macy's to continue operating one of the biggest stores in the chain in such an outmoded condition. As we noted last July, the renovations that are turning Macy's Herald Square into an upscale palace for luxury brands like Gucci and Louis Vuitton, are making parts of the rest of the chain look like a totally different company in contrast. With a new concept for the Brooklyn store, not only will Macy's show that they care about more than the famous Herald Square flagship, but it might just turn around some customers who had long ago written off the store as an irrelevant mess.
It's always important to keep oneself apprised of important developments in Desserts, and as The Shophound was perusing the list of new ice cream purveyors in this week's New York magazine, we noticed the name Vivoli Il Gelato, which had recently opened a counter at Macy's Herald Square.
Could this be the same Vivoli that we had encountered in Florence, Italy a couple of decades ago, finally making its way across the Atlantic? Yes it is, and it's the very first shop that this 80-year-old family run gelateria has ever opened outside iof Florence, let alone Europe. Even though we had pretty much stuffed ourselves last Thursday at the Super(Duper)Market, we didn't waste a minute hightailing it down to Macy's sixth floor to see if Vivoli's gelato made the overseas journey intact. Was it is good as we remembered? We needn't have worried. Silvana Vivoli, the granddaughter of the company's founder, has reportedly made the journey here to make sure that the new shop lives up to her family's high standards, and so far, nobody seems disappointed since it was uveiled in May. She is keeping a tight classic assortment of nine gelato and three sorbetto flavors available at a time, and though we wanted to taste every one, we picked the pistachio in a promisingly natural shade of green. We settled into the sleek lounge next to the store's highly touted Stella 34 Trattoria and it's dramatic midtown views to savor our little indulgence. As in Florence, Vivoli serves only in cups, and though the small size might seem meager, when it is tightly packed it is more than satisfying. Starting at $4.75, it's also a premium priced treat, but worth it for gelato lovers. The back of the bedding department at Macy's is probably not the first place anyone will look for superlative gelato, and as New York Magazine has pointed out, there is o shortage of good new ice cream available around tow this Summer, but Vivoli is worth going out of your way and braving the crowds of tourists meandering through the store's ongoing renovation for. Hopefully, we will see more Vivoli counters around the city in more convenient (but maybe not too convenient) locations soon.
Vivoli Il Gelato At Macy's Herald Square, 154 W. 34th Street, Sixth Floor
11 Great New Places to Get Ice Cream During the August Heat (Grub Streeet/NYMag)
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