Macy’s Herald Square, originally known as the R. H. Macy and Company Store, is the flagship of Macy’s department stores, located on Herald Square in Manhattan, New York City.
Here are the facts you ought to know:
The building’s 2.2 million square feet (almost 205,000 square meters) made it the world’s largest department store from 1924 until 2009, when the South Korean chain Shinsegae opened a store of nearly 3.16 million square feet (293,905 square meters) in Busan.
Built in 1902, Macy’s Herald Square was the first building in the world to have the modern day escalator. The wooden escalators are still in use today!
Macy’s was founded by Rowland Hussey Macy, who between 1843 and 1855 opened four retail dry goods stores, including the original Macy’s store in downtown Haverhill, Massachusetts. They all failed, but apparently he learned from his mistakes.
Macy moved to New York City in 1858 and established a new store named “R.H Macy Dry Goods” at Sixth Avenue on the corner of 14th Street.
On the company’s first day of business on October 28, 1858 sales totaled $11.08, equal to $301.47 today.
From the very beginning, Macy’s logo has included a star in one form or another, which comes from a tattoo that Macy got as a teenager when he worked on a Nantucket whaling ship.
As the business grew, Macy’s expanded into neighboring buildings, opening more and more departments, and used publicity devices such as a store Santa Claus, themed exhibits, and illuminated window displays to draw in customers.
The store later moved to 18th Street and Broadway, on the “Ladies’ Mile”, the elite shopping district of the time, where it remained for nearly forty years.
In 1902, the flagship store moved uptown to Herald Square at 34th Street and Broadway, so far north of the other main dry goods emporia that it had to offer a steam wagonette to transport customers from 14th Street to 34th Street.
Although the Herald Square store initially consisted of just one building, it expanded through new construction, eventually occupying almost the entire block bounded by Seventh Avenue on the west, Broadway on the east, 34th Street on the south and 35th Street on the north and was on its way to becoming the world’s largest store.
It is believed that The Siegel-Cooper Department Store, which had built what they thought was the world’s largest store on Sixth Avenue in 1896, tried to prevent Macy’s area expansion by asking Robert H. Smith, who was a neighbor of the Macy’s store on 14th Street, to purchase a small 5-story building on the corner of 34th Street and Broadway for $375,000 – an incredible sum in 1900 – with the idea of getting in the way of Macy’s becoming the largest store in the world.
Macy’s ignored the tactic, and simply built around the building, which now carries Macy’s “shopping bag” sign by lease arrangement. That building earned the name Million Dollar Corner when it was finally sold for a then record $1,000,000 on December 6, 1911.
An estimated 20 million shoppers visit Macy’s Herald Square over the course of each year.
An estimated 7,000 people view the display windows at Macy’s Herald Square each hour.
The Santaland at Macy’s Herald Square attracts about 250,000 visitors over the holidays each year.
The annual Flower Show at Macy’s Herald Square attracts an estimated 1.1 million visitors to the store.
Macy’s Herald Square offers about 4 million individual items (SKUs) for sale on a typical day.
Macy’s Herald Square introduced the first colored bath towels to America in 1932.
Macy’s also introduced the tea bag and baked potato to American consumers.
It helped popularize the board game “Scrabble” in the early 1950s.
Macy’s holds the first liquor license issued in New York City after Prohibition.
The original Macy’s Herald Square building included an innovative refrigerator and cooling system that allowed the store to chill drinking water to 40 degrees for the enjoyment of shoppers.
Initially, the ninth floor (home to the current furniture and luggage departments) was an exhibition hall and not used as selling space.
In the 1940s and 1950s, houses, airplanes and automobiles were sold on the ninth floor.
In 1913, a plaque was installed at the soon-to-be-reopened Memorial Entrance honoring Ida and Isidor Straus, who died aboard the RMS Titanic. At the time, Isidor Straus owned Macy’s along with his brother, Nathan.
In 1939, Macy’s offered installment credit to customers for the first time. Previously, it was known as a cash-only retailer.
In 2012, Macy’s began the first full renovation of the iconic Herald Square flagship store at a reported cost of $400 million.
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