Macy's Plans An Overhaul For Brooklyn

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.

Macy's Eyes New Look for Brooklyn Store (WWD)
Retail Renewal: What Does The Macy's Renovation Mean For The Rest Of The Chain?


Macy's Renovation Brings Vivoli's Legendary Italian Gelato To New York

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)


What Does The Macy's Renovation Mean For The Rest Of The Chain?

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 MacysHS-NewMensCosmetic (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.

MacysBK-EntranceSince 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.

MacysBK-elevatorsWalking 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.MacysBK-AandS-Escalator 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

Continue reading "RETAIL RENEWAL:

What Does The Macy's Renovation Mean For The Rest Of The Chain?" »


Macy's Picks MADE
For Its Next Impulse Collaboration

We figured we had seen every type of designer collaboration possible from retail mash-ups to celebrities and artists and even cartoon characters, but Macy's has thrown us yet another curve. Next month the department store will launch a line designed with MADE Fashion Week. The collective known as MADE comprises Mazdack Rassi, co-founder and creative director of Milk Studios; Jenné Lombardo, founder of The Terminal Presents branding and strategic marketing company, and Keith Baptista, founding partner of the Prodject production company. None of them are designers, and the 20 to 30 piece Made Fashion Week for Impulse collection will be designed by by both Macy's merchandising department and Milk Studios staff and range in price from $39 to $139. The collection is specifically not meant to be associated with any of the designers who show their collections at Milk Studios during Fashion Week, but rather the people who frequent the shows as fashion insiders. Macy's is keeping the line in (relatively) limited distribution, launching it in only 150 stores that heavily feature the contemporary Impulse department. The idea is to bring the style of cool downtown New York fashion types to Macy's shoppers. Baptista tells WWD, "The collection is really about individuality. What’s that young photographer who walks into the Milk Studio wearing? How does that blogger style herself? What’s that model wearing when she comes off the street? That’s what it’s about.”

Make of this what you will. We have a hard time swallowing the idea that about 10,000 other contemporary labels aren't already inspired by downtown New York fashion industry types, but good clothes at a good price always seem welcome. Unlike other Macy's collaborations, the Made Fashion Week for Impulse label is meant to be an ongoing collection for the store with new merchandise coming in on a monthly basis, or possibly even more frequently. To prove it's downtown cred, the launch campaign (pictured above) was shot by Terry Richardson at Milk Studios, naturally, and features a "backstage at a fashion shoot" theme. Will Richardson's typically dead-eyed models be too edgy for Macy's shoppers? Does the already bloated and overpromoted Fashion Week need to be further co-opted by America's biggest department store? As in anything retail related, the customers will have the final say next month.

Macy's Launches Collection With Made (WWD)


Merry Christmas, Macy's!

For the past 10 days or so, most of us have been preoccupied by either Hurricane Sandy or the Presidential election, so the folks at Macy's are probably betting that you aren't paying attention to the fact that they are already fully decorated for Christmas. These photos were taken last Saturday, November 3rd, just a couple of days after Halloween, when the store was completely decked out for the Holidays. Thanksgiving, still the traditional kickoff for the Holiday shopping season, is still over two weeks away.

In fairness, Macy's Herald Square is an immense building, and it would probably be impossible to decorate it in just a few days before Thanksgiving, but nobody wants to think about the Holidays if they are still feeling queasy from all the candy they have sneaked from trick-or-treating kids. Also, Thanksgiving is as early as it can possibly be this year, giving everyone more than enough time to see Christmas decorations during their appropriate season. Still, most department stores have a tin ear when it comes to these things. Holiday is their big moneymaking season, and they can't start it soon enough whether customers want to see it or not.

On the plus side, if you are a fan of Macy's moribund ersatz Art Deco main floor, then this will be your last chance to see it festooned for the Holidays before it is replaced with a brighter, more modern look. Oddly, the holiday decorations were only placed on the non-renovated sections on the main floor when we visited over the weekend. The shiny new departments including new accessory shops for Coach and Michael Kors, were unencumbered by garlands and tinsel.


Shoe Battle Edition

04ZCRITICAL2-popupSince everything comes back to shoes these days, it's no surprise that Critical Shopper Alexandra Jacobs has quickly found her way to Macy's immense new shoe department. In today's Thursday Styles, she give us a pretty good sense that she's not likely to return there anytime soon. It turns out that even with a sleek new setting, the main problem with Macy's new shoe 'salon' is that it's still in Macy's and retains a few drawbacks that all the fresh drywall in the world can't cure. It turns out that the tremendous expansion of the department and its inventory also brought a complicated system of messaging to remote stockrooms in order to convey merchandise for customers to try on. Apparently, there are still some kinks to work out that have been frustrating people on both sides of the register,

This meant a lot of people parked on squishy Naugahyde divans with rolling suitcases betwixt their knees and sour expressions on their faces.
“I’ve been standing here 15 minutes waiting for Julio — he has, like, seven shoes,” was a typical ejaculation from an exasperated floor manager.
“Everybody that’s with me here, you definitely need to help me put this back!” roared another, referring to the opened boxes and pieces of tissue paper scattered on the floor.

So, perhaps the world's largest store is still suffering from growing pains. We still think that Macy's will at least look a thousand times better once its storewide renovation is finally completed in a few years, but the service overhaul seems to have quite a ways to go as well.

Critical Shopper: A Leopard in a Cage at the Shoe Zoo By Alexandra Jacobs (NYTimes)
Macy’s Shoe Salon 151 West 34th Street at Broadway, second floor, Herald Square

Works In Progress: Renovations Just Might Turn Macy's Herald Square Into A Store Where You Will Want To Shop


Renovations Just Might Turn
Macy's Herald Square Into A Store Where You Will Want To Shop

The way things are going, it seems possible that in the future, what we know as department stores will have evolved into giant shoe and cosmetics departments with a sideline in clothes. Every major store in our retail-packed city has recently unveiled vastly expanded shoe areas with the grand behemoth, Macy's Herald Square, having done so this month as the first reveal of its immense renovation that will be taking place over the next couple of years. We, like many New Yorkers, have never been such a huge fan of this particular store. It is huge, obviously, but despite being one of the city's biggest tourist attractions, it has not been kept up to date or even maintained in a way that makes it unappealing to many New Yorkers, who have the luxury of choice and aren't necessarily lured by the store's aggressive promotions. If this new shoe floor, and a recently unveiled fine jewelry department are any indication, however, that's all going to change as the enormous facility finally enters the 21st Century.

Let's be realistic, Macy's will always be packed with tourists, but its newly redesigned sections seem to make more room for everyone while lifting the dreary, fluorescent-lit gloom that hangs over most of the store. The new shoe floor is vast as expected, and very much Macy's. There are no Louboutins here, or Manolo Blahniks, or Brian Atwoods or any other costly brand that Saks, Bergdorf's and Barneys proudly promote, but there are still yet-to-debut sections that will open into the second level of leased shops for both Louis Vuitton, a longtime Macy's fixture expanding its space, and Gucci, a newcomer to the Macy's mix. Who is going to buy their $1,000 shoes? We don't really know. Vuitton's Macy's location is believed to be one of its most lucrative, but it remains to be seen if the hordes who invest in the luxury brand's opening price point items will go for its more expensive shoes. Gucci is entering the fray to take advantage of those tourists and status shoppers as well, but as both departments will be vendor run (as all Vuitton shop-in-shops are, and many of Gucci's are being converted to), they won't be participating in the sales and promotions that Macy's runs. The overwhelming majority of the department's offerings seem to be priced at around $200 or below, with lines like Cole-Haan, which has its own shop, Donald J. Pliner and L.A.M.B. serving as the high end, clustered toward the Broadway side of the floor next to a "Herald Square Café" run by Starbucks and newly exposed windows. Walking through the department, we discovered all sorts of MacysShoeRacksthings. Did you know that the E! Channel has its own line of sparkly shoes? Madonna's Truth or Dare footwear collection looked better than we were expecting, but that may just be in comparison to the sea of chunky sandals and hooflike platform pumps at Macy's. There is a huge Michael Kors section in the center of the floor, but it mainly stocks his KORS and Michael labels with no sign of his premium brand.

The selection is so vast that it seems clear that with a good sense of style a person could still find some good looking shoes at a reasonable price there, but without that sense, they could also go horribly wrong —but perhaps that's the story of shopping at Macy's in general. One spacious section opens up into another and the floor's designers have not entirely neglected the store's tradition of sales and markdowns, and to that end several sections are set off on either side of the floor that seem devoted exclusively to clearance and promotions. Lined with racks, they seem to be permanent sale rooms made to move the merch while keeping the full priced tables free of chaos. We can imagine the kind of frenzy these rooms might whip up on a busy day, but they have been designed to contain it, hopefully.

The big difference here is not only the opened up space which immediately makes the department more comfortable, but also the lighting. In fact, it may be lighting that makes all the difference for shoppers once this entire renovation is finished. Most of the unflattering overhead lighting has been de-emphasized in favor of more directional illumination that draws the eye to the product and also vastly improves the ambiance of the floor. It really creates an immediately apparent feeling of being in a different store which should go a long way to winning over the jaded New Yorkers whose feeling about Macy's Herald Square is somewhere along the lines of "anywhere but there".

MacysJewelryThe difference between old and new is particularly striking in the just-finished fine jewelry department on the main floor. Moved into the arcade that separates the Broadway and Seventh Avenue buildings that once was a fragrance department, the new space has been gutted and fitted with white marble floors, mosaic faced cases and modern crystal chandeliers for a more opulent feeling. We aren't sure if exposed girder columns really work here, but they give the space an odd eclecticism. Again, lighting here is key in transforming the space, and the difference especially noticeable when strolling a few steps over to the unrenovated main floor men's department which feels even more dreary in comparison.

The most dramatic reveal will happen with the unveiling of the main floor of the Broadway side of the store that holds cosmetics and accessories that Macy's exec call "The Great Hall". That will be a long time coming, but bits of it are now visible, and they have already sparked a controversy. Some preservationists have decried stripping of the structural columns of their familiar marble cladding and Art Deco capitals. What they didn't realize however, was that those design elements were not original at all, but were actually added during a 1970s remodel. Compare the new and the old in the picture below. Which do you think looks better? The transition between old and new is so remarkable that it we are looking forward much more than we thought we would for the entire overhaul to be completed. If they have done this well with the few bits that are finished, we can't help imagining how much better the store will look when it is fully refreshed, and we won't be surprised to see a lot of New Yorkers who have written off Macy's Herald Square turn out to give it a fresh chance.


Macy's Next Capsule Comes from Calvin Klein... Who Already Sells To Macy's

Macy's designer collaboration program has taken an odd twist with the announcement that Calvin Klein will be the next label to join forces with the immense retailer.
Wait, doesn't Macy's stock racks and racks of Calvin Klein in its stores already?
Yes and no.

While the roster of designers who have participated in Macy's capsule collections over the past year has mostly been made up of designers like Karl Lagerfeld, Alberta Ferretti and Giambattista Valli among others whose price points are well above the chain's moderate parameters, this capsule of dresses (sketches are pictured above) will be from the brand's Francisco Costa designed Collection division. Costa's work usually features price tags running as much as ten times this line's $135 to $180 price points. In addition, this project appears to be separate from Macy's previous collaboration program which has been done as part of the store's Impulse contemporary department. This special line will be presented as part of the upcoming storewide promotion, “A Magical Journey to Brasil”. The Brazilian-born Costa will be representing his home country, and WWD reports that the labels and hangtags will read "Francisco Costa for Calvin Klein" marking the first time the designer's name has been featured next to Calvin Klein's in this way.

The rest of the brand's products won't be left out of the mix, however. Kevin Carrigan, who oversees the rest of Calvin Klein's non-Collection lines, will be creating exclusive products for men and women under the brand's moderately priced main label and underwear lines.

The promotion which begins next month will feature exclusive Brazilian and Brazilian-inspired products throughout the store over the course of two months in a manner reminiscent of country-specific promotions that were a regular feature at Bloomingdale's and Neiman Marcus in decades past. Costa's dresses will be released on May 15th.

Francisco Costa to Do Calvin Klein Capsule Line for Macy's (WWD)

How Much Will It Cost
To Make-Over Macy's Herald Square?
Only $400 Million.

In what has to be the most overdue move in retail, Macy's has announced that its iconic Herald Square flagship is about to undergo a top to bottom renovation over the course of four years that will cost $400 Million. Do we even need to say "It's about time"?

WWD reports that the project will add another 100,000 square feet to "The World's Largest Store" bringing its total up to 1.2 million square feet. So the renovation won't make the store any less overwhelming, but it will hopefully make it easier and more pleasant to shop. Plans include new, more upscale restaurants and cafés throughout the store and a women's shoe department expected to be the world's largest that will display 300,000 styles at a time. Louis Vuitton's leased shop, one of the luxury brand's most productive, will be remodeled and expanded, and the store expects to add a hall of "two-to-three-level" luxury handbag and shoe designers. Does that mean we will see Gucci and Prada in Macy's sometime soon? We're not holding our breath on that, but the total price tag of the renovation is expected to soar above the $400 million level as the store will call on vendors and designers to help foot the bill for the construction of their new in-store boutiques.

Other changes will include a huge expansion of menswear over seven floors on the store's Seventh Avenue side from its current five, a total overhaul of the 8th and 9th floor home furnishings departments, a reconfiguration of the Cellar housewares department and a restoration of the store's exterior among many other planned renovations. Perhaps the most important element of the project, however is the upgrading of the building's complex infrastructure systems with new, more efficient technology. Shoppers may remember the store being evacuated and shut down on occasion in recent years due to electrical fires and other system malfunctions. The famous wooden escalators will be preserved, though they are thought by many to be hazards that have caused injuries. One of them will be dismantled to provide parts for repairs of the remaining units.

Most importantly, we hope the McDonald's and Starbucks concessions will be allowed to remain in the store, because even after a renovation, Macy's will probably still be exhausting to shop. Who won't need a Big Mac or a Frappucino to keep their energy up?

Macy's Plots $400M Herald Square Revamp By David Moin (WWD)


Macy's Taps Doo.Ri For The Next Impulse Line

Macy's has been parsing out information about its designer collaboration lineup, but couldn't have better timing for its latest announcement. Doo.Ri, who just received a nice publicity boost for designing Michele Obabma's most recent state dinner gown, will create an exclusive collection for the department store's contemporary Impulse department. The line will focus on designer Doo-Ri Chung's signature draped jerseys, and will appear in 225 Macy's stores on February 25th for an eight-week run at prices ranging from $39 to $159.

Target's recent Missoni extravaganza shows that consumers are in no way tired of designer collaborations —as long as it is the right designer. Macy's is winding down a high profile line by Karl Lagerfeld, and Doo.Ri will follow one from Giambattista Valli which launches next week to sell through the holidays. Macy's officials seem to have more in store for the series of collaborations, but they are keeping their cards close to the vest. Unlike Lagerfeld and Valli before her, there was little going through the rumor mill about a Doo.Ri line for Macy's. The designer tells WWD, “The customer is very different from whom we’ve catered to before, but I really didn’t have to adapt. Macy’s wanted to keep the design level high. I didn’t feel the challenge was very different,”

Doo-Ri Chung Next Up for Macy's (WWD)