Menken’s, Macy’s, and America

As we know, everything in America is bigger, better, and more easily accessible. But, where did this need for the one-stop shop begin? In Mad Men, Rachel Menken’s department store ‘Menken’s’ has troubles advertising and so they turn to Sterling Cooper to help. Yet, not all department stores had such trouble advertising. The evolution of the department store is one intimately tied to America and the vast variety of department stores reflects America’s need to facilitate shopping in the era of the housewife. 

In 1858 Rowland Hussey Macy open up the “fancy dry goods” store under the company Macy & Co on sixth avenue in New York City. It was one of the first departments stores to open in America, and even to this day it is one of the most popular. Albeit a precursor to the modern day department store, the “fancy dry goods” store did not sell exclusively clothes, but rather they sold tools for embroidery, in addition to carpets, oil, and cloaks As Macy’s progressed into the fashion giant that it is today, it left behind it’s multipurpose business to transition into clothing.

In 1864 Macy’s began to use elaborate window displays, and created the idea of the ‘window shopper’. This newfangled and direct way of advertising relied on impulse buying. By presenting their most beautiful new garments directly in the window, the everyday person walking by can be taken aback by the fancy designs and can be enticed to enter and buy. This new advertising method has been recreated all over the world, and nowadays one expects window displays to be showy, extravagant, and flawless. 

In 1924 the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was born. Through their strategic name placement, Macy’s became a household name, and their advertising infiltrated the America psyche.  This classic American tradition was characterized by the ever-famous department store, and thus continued their brilliant advertising. 

For department stores, advertising is almost as important as product. If it were not for commercials and window displays and strategic sponsorship, Macy’s would not have become the powerhouse of fashion that is now is. 

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