Ground Floor

Macy’s brings urban sophistication to its refreshed Herald Square men’s department
Posted May 19, 2014

Forget the crush of crowds pushing through Macy’s narrow aisles and densely packed merchandise sections at Herald Square. That’s so 1902.

The massive ongoing renovation in Macy’s New York flagship has been completed in the men’s departments on the first and second floors of the store’s Second Avenue side. It’s just the start of a huge men’s makeover that will eventually extend to seven floors and more than 200,000 square feet, making it one of the largest men’s stores in the world, according to Tom Herndon, Macy’s senior vp of store design.

But the main floor of any store is always the face of the brand. This is particularly true at Macy’s 112-year-old flagship. It’s probably the most famous store in the country. And the most visited.

“We have about 20 million visitors a year,” says James Bellante, Macy’s senior vp of visual merchandise presentation.

But age and wear and tear had taken their toll.

So the mission, says architect and designer Charles Sparks of Charles Sparks + Co. (Westchester, Ill.), the design firm selected to design all seven floors of the men’s revamp, was part of “a master plan of re-layering the entire store. That meant connecting the men’s businesses within the two floors, creating an easier shopping experience with better wayfinding and updating the look to a more urban, sophisticated design.”

Mission accomplished. Shoppers walking into the store’s first floor from the newly opened Seventh Avenue entrance at 34th Street will find an open, brighter, more luxurious and easier-to-shop environment.

The massive space has been opened up and given room to breathe.

“I had very little visual opportunity before,” says Bellante. “The store was maxed out to capacity, and I had to fight for every inch.”

Not anymore.

“With the new design, I have shelves, platforms and locations on the floor,” he says. “I’ve been able to carve out pure visual moments, to show important brands and new ideas.”

That’s important, because there are plenty of new ideas in the space: fashion brands like Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Lacoste and Nautica have shop presences on the second floor, where the men’s designer collections reside. And the largest Ralph Lauren concept shop in the world runs along the entire side of the building.

Upgraded brands are a big part of the renovation strategy. The main floor of men’s accessories, shirts and ties includes new brands for Macy’s like Ike Behar and Thomas Pink shirts, a Michael Kors men’s accessories shop and Tumi men’s leather accessories (belts, bags and wallets).

Everything has been expanded. In fact, says Herndon, the men’s fragrance and treatment offer on the first floor of the Seventh Avenue side is a whole store within the store, and one of the biggest in the world.

Aisles were widened, lighting upgraded, interior walls removed and escalator wells opened up for easier identification. But clearing out and opening up the space was no sign of disrespect to the old building, which is full of the character acquired over more than a century.

Respect was paid.

“An awareness of heritage and how it would be reinterpreted was always on my mind,” Bellante says. “I’ve selected materials, finishes and even visual elements themselves that evoke the sensibility of our history. It’s a focus that will continue through the course of the renovation.”

This historical heritage “can be leveraged into subtle interpretations through patterns of wood and tile flooring, exposing exterior windows, designing high bases as in older generation buildings,” says Sparks.

“We took the walls down around the escalators and replaced those with merchandised fixtures, for more openness and also more selling opportunities,” says Herndon. “And that will be true up and down the entire seven floors, so there’s a consistency to men’s among the seven floors – the ultimate shop-in-shop inside the 1.1 million-square-foot store.”

The rest of the story is yet to be told. But Macy’s started at the beginning – on the ground floor. 

Macy’s, New York: Tom Herndon, svp store planning & design; James Bellante, svp visual merchandising; Jeff Fontana, vp project manager

Charles Sparks + Co., Westchester, Ill.: Charles Sparks, principal-in-charge; Donald Stone, account executive; David Koe, creative director; and Cindy Passarelli, director resource studio

Outside Design Consultants
Lighting Workshop, New York

Creative Realities, New York

Stanly Fixtures Company, Inc., Norwood, N.C.
J. Phelan Construction Company Inc., Huntington, New York
L & J Interiors Inc., Bohemia, New York
Megavision, New York

Wesnic Inc., Jacksonville, Fla.

Amerlux, Fairfield, N.J.
Contrast Lighting, Saint-Jean-Chrysostome, Que.
Juno Lighting Group, Des Plaines, Ill.
Stylmark, Minneapolis

Materials and Wallcoverings
Maya Romanoff, Skokie, Ill.
D.L. Couch, New Castle, Ind.
Donghia, Milford, Conn.
Carnegie, Rockville Center, N.Y.
Knoll Textiles, East Greenville, Pa.

American Renolit Corp., Swedesboro, N.J.
Wilsonart International Inc., Columbus, Ohio
Bendheim Glass, New York
Mixed-Up Mosaics, New York

Highland Associates, Summit, Pa.

General Contractor
J. Phelan Construction Company Inc., Huntington, New York

Photography: Charlie Mayer, Oak Park, Ill.