Shopping at Macy's in New York City
>> It's thrilling to shop at Macy's in Manhattan. After all, it's the world's largest department store - not a mall knockoff.
I've shopped at mall Macy's, of course. Are they attractive? Yes. Worth a special trip? Only if one's nearby and you need something.
But Manhattan's Macy's at 34th and Broadway (by the big sign) is different. It's worth trip after trip just for entertainment value. Not only will you see almost every nationally-available retail item on display, many will be on sale AND there might be a special event going on such as the De Gustibus cooking school, celebrity appearances, or even their famous Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Macy's beautiful brick building is located on a complete city block bounded by Broadway, 34th Street, 7th Avenue and 35th Street. The most interesting sides are on 34th Street, for it's beautiful door treatments and guardians (pictured below) and on Broadway, where the famous holiday picture windows are located as well as the sidewalk bronze (also pictured below).
During flower season, Herald Square, directly across from Macy's, is a beautiful little park to see. And on the Macy's side of Broadway are numerous sidewalk vendors who sell cheap watches (2 for $10), belts (5 dollar 5 dollar), socks, purses, sunglasses, jewelry, books, toys and snacks. These vendors either provide value and excitement or get in the way. No matter what, you need to deal with them, if just to elbow them aside.
Macy's itself is divided into two sections called "Broadway" and "7th Avenue." In each section are ten shopping floors, including a basement. Despite its rectangular shape, isles run every which way except straight. Once you are in the middle of any given floor, you need a GPS to find escalators and elevators. Even then, an up escalator is not necessarily by one going down.
Unless you have a remarkable memory or infallible sense of direction, count on becoming lost as part of your experience. Fortunately, if you get tired, there's a coffee or tea shop on almost every floor.
On the ground level, the 7th Avenue side features an enormous men's shop, while the Broadway side leads you to purses and jewelry. Between the men's shop and women's specialty items are cosmetics.
Macy's has a warehouse full of cosmetics, with plenty of counters for makeovers, a decent amount of elbow room, and cosmetic-company trained staff for each brand. Want to be pampered and prepped? Head to Macy's.
And do you like labels? Macy's features just about all of them. Even its Fur Vault is the same that operates in Sak's. That said, here's where things are:
- Basement: Cook and kitchenware. Small appliances. Men's sportswear.
- First (main) Floor: Men's clothing. Cosmetics and perfume. Jewelry (watches, costume, consumer and fine gold). Women's accessories and purses. Socks and hose. Note that I've purchased long, wide, fringed silk shawls here for under $35 and wear them instead of sweaters. Glove-leather, Charter Club purses selling full price for $40 to $90 are also an excellent deal; even better on sale.
- 2nd Floor: Charter Club separates, plus a wide line of women's casual labels. Men's clothing.
- 3rd Floor: Women's dress clothing, plus more casual, all labels. Maternity. Men's suits, coats and shoes.
- 4th Floor: Even more women's casual. Even more labels. Misses and Petite's suits. Juniors everything. Hair Salon.
- 5th Floor: Petite's shop, including Charter Club. More casual. More labels. Furs. Shoes.
- 6th Floor: Mega bed and bath section. Lingerie.
- 7th Floor Infants, toddlers and children's clothing (all labels). Woman's. Coats. And a McDonald's.
- 8th Floor: Quality dishes and silver. Bridal.
- 9th Floor: Furniture, mostly high-quality, dark traditional. Stunning rugs. Beds. Luggage. The Christmas Store in season. Luggage. And a Post Office, albeit small.
How to Shop:
You may think you know how to shop until you try Macy's in Manhattan. There are so many things to see that unless you know what you want, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. Worse, there are no carts. Schlepping is a problem, for sure.
The store, however, is worth knowing. Mastering it will give you a visual thrill as well as easy access to bargains. Even if you shop at suburban Macy's and fancy yourself a loyalist, investigate their flagship store slowly. While you nose through it, write notes as to what is where (especially important on clothing floors if you expect to return to some brand). Don't linger too long in any one spot. It always seems like the best stuff is just a few yards ahead.
A printed store directory is available from Macy's Information Center on the first floor mezzanine, but the store is so big, the directory provides minimal guidance. If you ever find a comprehensive floor map of Macy's, let me know. My impression is that if one existed, it would have to be in book-format or on a wall-sized poster. No matter what form, it's needed!
Macy's always has sales. Sign up for their charge card to get on their catalog and sale list. If you find yourself in Manhattan often, make it a habit to carry Macy's coupons just in case you get the urge to shop. I speak from experience. There is nothing worse than being in the store, hands on goods, knowing that 20% off coupons are compressed at home under a stack of magazines.
What I really love about Macy's is their Charter Club brand.
Charter Club clothing is made from the highest quality fabrics, using the best construction techniques outside of hand-made, French fashion (IMHO). The clothing is of the same quality as the Sak's 5th Avenue housebrand (which is produced at high-label manufacturers), but 50% to 75% cheaper. A full-price, thick cashmere housebrand sweater at Saks, for example, might cost $200 or so, but only $90 at Macy's. Stick a 25% sale on that tag and you have a real "buy." Surprisingly, Charter Club pricing on sale often beats Target housebrand clothing, but by far surpasses the quality.
You'll find Charter Club in all departments, including men's, women's, teen's and children's clothing, bathroom and bedding, and accessories. Charter Club clothing is conservative, great for essentials such as sweaters, Tees, pants, blouses and shirts. Save your cash for high-quality accessories, jewelry and an occasional fur.
Before heading to Bed, Bath and Beyond, an admittedly wonderful chain with a fabulous 6th Avenue "must see" Manhattan outlet, go to Macy's bed and bath department. Check out what Charter Club (and the Hotel Collection) has to offer, along with all major labels. Note that Charter Club high-thread-count cotton sheets are fit for royalty without good-for-a-laugh upscale pricing.
American Christmas Holiday Season:
No matter what your religious background, I'm sure you know that American merchants go gonzo around Christmas. If you like seeing "sparkling things," even if you are not Christian, check out Macy's 9th floor after Thanksgiving.
Macy's has the largest display of high-quality, light-bright crafts in America. I can say this with certainty as during "the season," I regularly explore Chicago's classic department stores, plus every one in Manhattan. A few weeks before Christmas, prices are cut by 50%.
Shop 'til You Drop?
Yes. I've been to all major department stores, including Macy's sister, Bloomingdale's. No matter where I've been, I've found that Macy's always has great selections, reasonable prices and great sales. They are even competitive with such Target-fodder as small appliances and pots and pans.
The best times to shop are very early in the morning, any rainy or bad-weather day, or after 7 PM any evening. This advice is especially useful on days when you shop for clothing and need easy-access to fitting rooms.
Shop elsewhere? But of course. Macy's doesn't have everything. Still, if you want to see most of everything and buy a lot of it at decent prices, start with Macy's in Manhattan.
For special events, check ads in The New York Times as well as at www.macys.com.
Article and photos by Karen Little. Map produced through Microsoft Streets & Trips 2002. First published on 8/23/2002. All rights reserved by www.Littleviews.com.