There have been countless films and television specials dedicated to them. There have been books based on them, and magazine features galore. There have even been parades. For travellers to New York City, a much-anticipated activity is shopping at its many iconic stores.
From Little Brown Bags to Turquoise gifts boxes, for more than a century, these stores have defined New York shopping. Barneys and Bloomingdales, Macy’s and Saks, when planning your incredible shopping trip to New York, make sure you set aside time to see them.
When in the heart of Manhattan, here are some shopping icons that are worth your time, and maybe your money too...
Saks Fifth Avenue
Located on Fifth Avenue near 50th Street in the heart of Midtown, Saks Fifth Avenue is the flagship store that has since spread to all parts of the world. A celebrity favourite, this high-end department store epitomises luxury and style. In 1924, retail pioneers Horace Saks and Bernard Gimbel collaborated to open the store just south of St Patrick's Cathedral, facing the equally iconic Rockefeller Center.
More than just high fashion, Saks Fifth Avenue is also known for its stunning Christmas displays – complete with interactive shop windows and giant “dancing” snowflakes.
Only a few blocks from Central Park at 59th and Lexington Avenue, the NYC shopping jewel that has made brown bags famous the world over is waiting for you. A feast for all shoppers, Bloomingdales has the ability to combine luxury brands and a feeling of classic New York inside this historic department store.
After some smaller locations, they moved to their current location in 1886. Unique at the time, it was designed with large plate glass display windows and large merchandising areas in order to entice shoppers who were walking by the store. They were one of the first American stores to actively import European fashions and trends.
But more than just shopping, Bloomingdale’s has found a place in popular culture. In television and movies, the store has become synonymous with New York shopping. And for Rachel’s character in Friends, the store was so much more than just a store.
Barneys New York
There is a sophisticated elegance at this Madison Avenue store. From Manolo Blahnik shoes to Prada suits, the most luxurious brands on the planet have found their ways to the racks and shelves of Barneys. In 1923, Barney Pressman opened his store on New York’s Seventh Avenue after her pawned his wife’s diamond engagement ring. With an eye of men’s suits, Barneys slowly grew into a retail powerhouse. Floor by floor, their Midtown location grew as their business grew.
In 1993, Barneys defied history and convention and moved to a new building. At more than 200,000 square feet, the new Madison Avenue location was the largest retail store built in New York since the Great Depression in the 1930s.
Tiffany & Co.
When the world’s most famous jewellery shop is mentioned, you may close your eyes and picture their packaging, or maybe you picture Audrey Hepburn in sunglasses standing at the shop window.
Either way – you are thinking of Tiffany’s.
From engagement rings and luxury watches to key rings, money clips, and cuff links, the store can offer shoppers of all kinds “something special”. Opened in 1837, the store originally sold stationery and “fancy goods”. In 1853, after a bit of a falling out amongst the original owners, Charles Tiffany re-branded and decided to focus on selling jewellery.
Whether you fancy the sparkly products in the window, it is undeniable that the allure of Tiffany & Co. stems from the classic 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany’s starring Hepburn and George Peppard. Adapted from a book by Truman Capote, the film tells the story of a slightly naïve young woman in New York City.
A department store that is uniquely New York, Bergdorf Goodman’s on Fifth Avenue offers a traditional city shopping experience. There you will find ladies enjoying a nice lunch, younger shoppers on the ultra-hip fifth floor, or maybe work through a seemingly endless supply of designer handbags on the second floor.
The famous retailer actually operates from two separate stores situated across the street from each other. Bergdorf Goodman opened in 1928, and the main location is on the west side of Fifth Avenue. Directly across from the first, the company opened a separate men's store in 1990.
Macy's Herald Square
No trip to The Big Apple is complete without a trip to Macy’s – possibly the most famous department store in the United States. Poised on Herald Square at 34th Street near Broadway, the store was opened in 1902. Until eclipsed by a South Korean store in 2009, it was the largest store on the planet with a size of 2.2 million square feet.
A traditional department store, Macy’s sells everything from clothing and shoes, to household appliances and furniture.
Macy’s plays an important role in American culture. It was the setting for the holiday classic Miracle on 34th Street and inspired other films such as Elf. The store also sponsors and hosts one of the largest holiday parades in the country. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is broadcast nationally and is attended by thousands and thousands of people. In 2008, the parade gained international attention when British performer Rick Astley staged a surprise performance on one of the parade’s giant floats.
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