In 1858, Rowland Hussey Macy opened a dry goods store—R.H. Macy & Co.—on the corner of 14th Street and 6th Avenue, ringing up $11.06 in first day sales. By 1877, Macy expanded his retail footprint to occupy 11 adjacent buildings, selling many different categories of merchandise which laid the foundation for the modern day American department store. The store’s original trademark emblem was a rooster, but Macy replaced it with a red star, inspired by the tattoo he got on his forearm during his whaling days—a visual nod to the star that guided him when he was at sea. In a series of firsts, Macy’s store was the first to possess a New York City liquor license and in 1862, the first to feature a Santa Claus inside the store as an attraction. In 1864, the store began installing illuminated window displays to attract the attention of those passing by, giving rise to the notion of “window shopping.” The legacy of Macy’s continued under the leadership of the Straus family, who in 1888, became partners in the business.
By the turn of the century, the store had outgrown its real estate and its new owners, Isidor and Nathan Straus, eyed 34th Street as the new address for New York City’s pre-eminent shopping destination. In 1902, the store moved uptown to the now world-famous Herald Square flagship at 34th Street and Broadway. It had 33 elevators and four wooden escalators—the first to be used in any American store. These original escalators, along with 39 more, can still be seen today in the Herald Square store. In 1924, Macy’s employees started the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade® (originally called the “Macy’s Christmas Parade”), that has now become the retailer’s signature kick-off of the holiday season. That same year, with the store’s 7th Avenue expansion completed, Macy’s Herald Square became “the World’s Largest Store” and occupied nearly an entire city block.
Over the years, Macy’s expanded by opening new stores, acquiring regional department store nameplates, and launching an e-commerce site. In 1994, it was acquired by Federated Department Stores. Macys.com was launched in 1997, significantly broadening the company’s reach and securing its place as an omnichannel destination. In 2007, Federated Department Stores changed its corporate name to Macy’s, Inc. and now has more than 600 stores across the United States, Puerto Rico, and Guam.