Tag Archives: macy’s

#38things: What’s the craze with Thanksgiving and Black Friday shopping?

This post is part of my attempt to post daily between Black Friday and New Year’s Day. That means, if my math is correct, I will have offered 38 different topics about my favorite time of the year. Learn more about 38 Things for the Holidays. If my math is wrong, don’t tell Santa. Please?

This is the first post in this (hopeful) series. This will discuss Thanksgiving and Black Friday shopping.

Thanksgiving/Black Friday shopping

I’ve never understood the need to rush to a store, wait in long lines and drop cash on something that probably isn’t worth the hassle anyway.

Sure, I’m guilty of traveling to three different Targets for a Nintendo 3DS XL a few years back and to three different Best Buys for a video game, but I didn’t wait in any lines or threaten the lives of other shoppers. I was the only one after these items.

So the Black Friday and, as of the last few years, Thanksgiving night shopping experiences have no “wow” factor for me.

That doesn’t mean I ignore the experience. I never got up early on Black Friday.

But — and many of you will complain — I do enjoy going to the stores on Thanksgiving after dinner.

While I did not go out this year, it’s an escape from family, which I think is why everybody really goes shopping that night!

But for me, it’s also a chance to just watch people go nuts for the latest TV or get lost in a bunch of so-called “doorbuster” deals.

While TV news sometimes plays up the hype of the shopping hysteria, there is plenty of research and stories to prove that many of the “deals” advertised on Thanksgiving and Black Friday are not deals at all.

For example, Macy’s had a lot of what looked like deep discounts to the naked eye. But a closer look revealed that the “sales” prices were no sales at all. In many cases, the department store never or rarely sells the item for the “regular price” listed.

So an item that claims to be $75 almost never is sold for that price due to ongoing marketing gimmicks to get people to shop.

But for somebody who rarely shops or doesn’t understand the game retailers play, they see a markdown from $75 and think it’s a deal when, in reality, you might be able to get the same item days later for much less.

I remember last year at Target on Thanksgiving, DVDs were $4 or $6 and $10 for complete seasons. But those $4 and $6 DVDs had no bells and whistles. (And who buys DVDs these days, anyway?)

I did buy an ornament at Macy’s last year on Thanksgiving. It was a Spode Christmas tree. I got it for a little more than $10 with tax. Macy’s claimed it was 65 percent off the original price. But we all know Macy’s never sells things for that “original” sticker price.

So was my purchase a good deal?

Retail experts say the better deals often can be found during December. But the marketing tactics used (the language of promotions, the buy-two-get-ones) can pull in the unsuspecting shopper to think they’re getting a deal.

And let’s talk Apple for a moment, shall we? Gift cards for future purchases as their Black Friday promotion? LOL.

There were some iPads on sale at (I think) Target, but they seemed to be less-than-stellar versions of the iPad, so they might be good for people not looking for much storage and who prefer WiFi.

Did you find a decent deal? Tell me!

Light Up Night still excites

IMG_4450Light Up Night.

It’s been the official start of the holiday season in Pittsburgh for 55 years.

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The Horne’s tree still will be lit. And the windows at Kaufmann’s will be unveiled as they’ve been for more than 70 years.

  
But 2015 marks the first Light Up Night without a major department store Downtown. Macy’s closed the nearly 130-year-old Kaufmann’s store in September.

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Sure there is Burlington and Brooks Brothers, some small shops and a bunch of drug stores.

But gone are the anchor stores that helped bring people to all of the shops Downtown.

In many ways, Light Up Night is more important now for Downtown retail than ever before — events like this get people into town and maybe get them to return throughout the season.

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Everybody seems to have their own belief for why department stores no longer exist Downtown.

No matter the reason, though, Light Up Night goes on, even if it seems strange to reveal holiday windows under the Kaufmann’s Clock and have no inside activities. (Kaufmann’s and Macy’s always had wonderful inside events on all of the floors.)

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I’m excited for Light Up Night — for the American Cancer Society and PPG Place tree lighting, for the cute shops and dancing lights at Market Square, for Wintergarden at PPG Place, for the old Horne’s tree and to see the reincarnation of the Kaufmann’s windows.  

Like I have for many years, I’ll enjoy all of the festivities to kick off my favorite time of year in the greatest city on earth.

Happy holidays, Pittsburgh!

Could Macy’s sell off its Herald Square location?

In July, Macy’s announced it would dump its Downtown Pittsburgh store after 128 years at 400 Fifth Ave (the first 119 years as Pittsburgh’s iconic Kaufmann’s store).

It seems the department store could also be looking to dump its iconic Herald Square location.

All in an effort to raise cash for investors.

Would the store leave Herald Square altogether, allowing a developer to construct residential space and smaller retail space not far from Times Square?

Would Macy’s rent back some space?

Memories from Kaufmann’s Clock

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I was deeply saddened to learn Downtown Pittsburgh’s last major anchor department store soon will be nothing but a memory.

After about 128 years in the same location at 400 Fifth Ave., Macy’s will close the iconic Downtown Pittsburgh store which first opened in 1887 as Kaufmann’s. The company made the announcement July 13, 2015.

For decades, the Downtown location stood out for its valued traditions: Christmas window displays, visits with Santa, a holiday parade, the Arcade Bakery, the Tic Toc restaurant and much more.

Generations of Pittsburghers have met under Kaufmann’s Clock, too.

Because of Macy’s commitment to retaining a Downtown Pittsburgh store after the company bought The May Co. — the longtime parent company of regionalized department stores such as Kaufmann’s, Filene’s (Boston) and Marshall Field’s (Chicago) — we were afforded a chance to continue making memories — albeit under the Macy’s nameplate for the last nearly nine years.

But soon, like Horne’s and Gimbels before it, the Kaufmann’s and Macy’s names will disappear from the Downtown Pittsburgh retail landscape.

While there is much to discuss about how and why the company made this decision to close Pittsburgh’s last large anchor store, and on the Downtown retail climate as a whole, I want to solely focus on memories.

I didn’t grow up in a time when people flocked Downtown to Fifth Avenue and nearby streets to shop at Gimbels, Horne’s, Kaufmann’s or Jenkins Arcade — the way my mom recalls doing with her family.

It wasn’t until I moved away from Pittsburgh that I realized how special Downtown Pittsburgh’s Kaufmann’s — later Macy’s — was.

Creaky floors, the Westinghouse elevators and wooden escalators gave so much charm to the mundane task of shopping for clothing. Having lunch at the Tic Toc restaurant and grabbing thumbprints at Arcade Bakery are things shoppers can’t do at Ross Park Mall or the Mall at Robinson or any suburban mall Macy’s.

There aren’t window displays at the South Hills Village Macy’s with whimsical holiday scenes.

In a world of corporate sameness, the Macy’s in Downtown Pittsburgh added uniqueness.

Light Up Night and those holiday windows
Light Up Night is one of my most favorite days of the year. For the last several years, I’ve taken the day off work and have headed into Downtown Pittsburgh in the afternoon to begin celebrating the kickoff to the holiday season.

Part of that holiday spirit included window displays at Kaufmann’s (and later Macy’s). With so much to do Downtown that evening, I’ve only had one chance to watch the unveiling of the windows.

It was 2013. Gloria Gaynor performed and Pirates manager Clint Hurdle spoke.

Then, the throngs of people in attendance began counting down until the bright red curtains were pulled off to usher in another season of holiday cheer, and a new generation of Pittsburghers created memories.

The last several years, Macy’s has placed the same displays in windows for passersby. But they’ve had a local feel: skaters at PPG Place, shoppers under the Kaufmann’s Clock, fireworks celebrating First Night.

In one window, a child was shown watching black and white footage (from “Miracle on 34th Street”) of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on an old television as a Macy’s elf balloon moved overhead. Out of the window in the room where the child was, onlookers could see an image of Pittsburgh’s three sister bridges.

And, of course, Virginia’s mission to help write letters to Santa was prominently displayed in another window.

Several years back, I purchased from a seller on eBay four papier-mâché-type carolers once used in a Kaufmann’s window display. I’ve yet to showcase them at Christmas time, instead keeping them safely packaged away.

Speakers above the windows on Smithfield Street likely won’t play holiday tunes this year. Lights won’t shine down on whimsical displays showcasing some of Pittsburgh’s most beloved landmarks. No musician will sing and no crowd will count down. There will be no window encouraging passersby to believe.

Just taste those thumbprint cookies at Arcade Bakery
As Pittsburgh bakeries go, Arcade is top notch.

Whenever I visited the bakery, there always was a crowd: Downtown office workers picking up cakes and lunch, families taking home thumbprint cookies, husbands sipping a Coke and eating a doughnut while their wives shopped.

I always ended up with plenty of their thumbprint cookies. These sweet treats offered a generous amount of icing and came with or without jimmies (chocolate or rainbow).

Their cakes and doughnuts were just as wonderful. No mass-produced product at a big-box grocery store could compete. Only one other locally owned bakery could compete and that place closed in the late 2000s.

“Meet me under Kaufmann’s Clock”
I’ve met up with a few people over the years under Kaufmann’s Clock.

I once drove by as a bride and groom were having pictures taken with the clock.

But one of my most favorite memories of the clock was in May 2013 — the 100th anniversary of the iconic timepiece.

Macy’s hosted a weekend-long celebration with special items and a block party on Smithfield Street.

Spending the day with my mother shopping Downtown, having lunch at Tic Toc and taking home Arcade treats made that day extra special. We’ve shopped at the Downtown store at other times, but that day was special.

As we ate at Tic Toc, my mother reminisced of the days she would shop at Kaufmann’s and Gimbels (she apparently wasn’t much of a Horne’s shopper).

More than memories
Along with the charm of the structure, the thumbprint cookies, the clock and slow elevators, I was drawn to the Downtown Pittsburgh store because of its employees, selection and organization.

A few workers on the men’s floor would recognize me as I browsed. One remembered items I previously purchased and asked how the pants or shirts were.

My mother would wait in a long line for a specific employee on the woman’s floor simply because the worker was extremely outgoing and friendly. The worker once recognized me in another business in the city.

Racks of clothing were organized neatly by size and style, and the large floors allowed for ample space — unlike suburban Macy’s, where clothing is in disarray, and racks are piled close to one another to get as much on the floor as possible.

Clock keeps ticking
Before Macy’s announced the closing, I was excited for what the Big Store — once the nickname of the Downtown Kaufmann’s building — would become.

Macy’s was to occupy the first four floors with a hotel and apartments above that.

In news stories published following Macy’s announcement, the building developer said the company was surprised the retail store was backing out of the project.

A Macy’s executive — in a prepared statement — said the department store’s departure would allow for a “holistic” project.

It seems as though retail will be sought for some portion of the lower levels where Macy’s would have been. Perhaps there is a chance for the Tic Toc and Arcade Bakery to find new life in this new plan?

While department store shoppers won’t browse clothing racks, grab a bite to eat or take home a dozen thumbprints any longer at the corner of Fifth and Smithfield in Downtown Pittsburgh, Kaufmann’s Clock will continue to tick just as it has done for more than a century, ushering in new memories for dwellers.

I’ll hold close my memories of Arcade thumbprints, Christmas window displays and shopping bags under Kaufmann’s Clock.

Holiday TV for Dec. 18: Original ‘Miracle,’ ‘Holiday Inn,’ ‘Christmas Carol,’ more

Special night for classic movie fans.

4 p.m. — “I Love Toy Trains,” RFDTV

5 p.m. — “Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas,” ABC Family

5:15 p.m. — “White Christmas,” AMC

6 p.m. — “A Princess for Christmas,” Hallmark

8 p.m. — “Miracle on 34th Street” (1947, Natalie Wood), AMC

8 p.m. — “Best Christmas Party Ever,” Hallmark

8 p.m. — “A Christmas Carol” (1938, Reginald Owen), TCM

8:30 p.m. — “It Happened on Fifth Avenue” (1947, Don DeFore), Hallmark Movies

9:15 p.m. — “Scrooge” (1970, Albert Finney, Alec Guinness), TCM

9:30 p.m. — “Full House,” Nick

10:15 p.m. — “Miracle on 34th Street” (1947, Natalie Wood), AMC

11 p.m. — “A Christmas Visitor” (2002, Meredith Baxter), Hallmark Movies

11 p.m. — “Friends,” Nick

12:30 a.m. — “Holiday Inn” (1942, Bing Crosby), AMC