No one would have guessed that the small, fancy dry goods store that opened on the corner of
14th Street and 6th Avenue in New York City in 1858 would grow to be one of the largest
retailers in the world.
But after several failed retail ventures, Rowland Hussey Macy’s determination and
ingenuity paid off at the age of 36 with the launch of R.H. Macy & Co. He adopted a red
star as his symbol of success, dating back to his days as a sailor. First-day sales totaled
$11.06 but by the end of the first full year, sales grossed approximately $85,000. By 1877,
R.H. Macy & Co. had become a full-fledged department store occupying the ground space of
11 adjacent buildings.
Always the innovator, Macy’s is known for several firsts that changed the retail industry.
Macy’s was the first retailer to promote a woman, Margaret Getchell, to an executive position,
making business history. Macy’s pioneered such revolutionary business practices as the
one-price system, in which the same item was sold to every customer at one price, and quoting
specific prices for goods in newspaper advertising. Known for its creative merchandising,
Macy’s was the first to introduce such products as the Idaho baked potato and colored
bath towels. Macy’s also was the first retailer to hold a New York City liquor license.
By November 1902, the store had outgrown its modest storefront and moved uptown to its present
Herald Square location on Broadway and 34th Street, establishing an attraction for shoppers from
around the world. With the store’s 7th Avenue expansion completed in 1924, Macy’s
Herald Square became the “World’s Largest Store,” with more than 1 million
square feet of retail space. Note that Macy’s Herald Square expanded to 1.1 million square
feet of retail space in the renovation project unveiled in 2015.
By 1918, R.H. Macy & Co. was generating $36 million in annual sales. Yet, the prosperity of
the retailer was never more apparent than when the company went public in 1922 and began to
open regional stores and take over competing retailers. In 1923, the Toledo-based department
store Lasalle & Koch was acquired; the next year, Davison-Paxton in Atlanta was acquired; and
in 1936, the Newark-based Bamberger’s was purchased.
To help celebrate their new American heritage, Macy’s immigrant employees organized the
first Christmas Parade in 1924. The procession featured floats, bands, animals from the zoo and
10,000 onlookers, beginning a time-honored tradition now known as the annual Macy’s
Thanksgiving Day Parade.
In 1945, the company expanded west and purchased O’Connor Moffatt & Company in San Francisco.
Two years later, O’Connor Moffatt stores, including the landmark Union Square store that opened
in 1866, were converted to Macy’s after a survey indicated that San Franciscans would welcome
Macy’s California broke new ground with the first department store flower show in 1946. What
began as a fragrance promotion in the cosmetics department now annually welcomes the spring season,
treating visitors to a botanical, cultural and community spectacle and is held in New York City,
Chicago, Minneapolis, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., in addition to San Francisco. In 1971,
Macy’s Union Square store’s lower level, once cluttered with bargains, was transformed
into “The Cellar,” changing the way customers shop for housewares. Due to its success,
the Herald Square store followed suit five years later.
On December 19, 1994, Federated Department Stores, Inc. (now known as Macy’s, Inc.) acquired
R.H. Macy & Co., creating the world’s largest premier department store company. Federated
Department Stores operated more than 400 department stores and 157 specialty stores in 37 states.
A&S Department Stores were converted to the Macy’s nameplate in May 1995. Also in 1995, Federated
acquired The Broadway Department Stores, bringing Broadway, Emporium and Weinstocks to the Macy’s
family, as well as six former I. Magnin stores. Some 46 stores were converted to the Macy’s nameplate.
Following the model of A&S, Jordan Marsh Department Stores of Boston, already owned by Federated, was
converted to Macy’s in March 1996. In January 2001, Macy’s absorbed 17 Stern’s Department
Stores located in New York and New Jersey. In June 2001, Federated purchased the Liberty House operations
in Hawaii and Guam, bringing the proud Macy’s tradition and heritage to the Pacific.
Macy’s entered 2005 with about 240 locations, primarily on the East and West Coasts. With the
conversion of all Federated’s regional store name-plates in March 2005, Macy’s grew to
about 425 locations across the country. In September 2006, with the conversion of stores acquired
from The May Department Stores Company, Macy’s served customers through approximately 730
stores. As of April 1, 2017, Macy's now serves customers through approximately 670 stores in virtually
every major geographic market in the United States, as well as the