In this guide, we'll tell you about the best:
- High-End Department Stores
- Classic New York Department Stores
- Discount Department Stores
When New Yorkers want something, they tend to want the best and want it now. It's a geographical hazard, a malady brought on by the answered expectation of being able to buy a DVD, toothpaste, and a box of Cheerios at three in the morning by simply walking a block or two from your apartment. Add to that the plethora of shoe stores and clothing shops that fill this fine city, and a mild ailment becomes an all-out mania. New York doesn’t have just the best restaurants, bars, and boutiques; it also have some of the world’s premier department stores for quick, easy, one-stop shopping excursions. New Yorkers don't simply think they can get anything from high-end to low-end at the drop of a hat, they know
it. While you're in the city, then, be sure to take advantage of these phenomenally enabling department stores, where anything you want—even if its Japanese fashions or kitschy kitchenwares—is up for grabs.
High-end Department Stores
Standing at the crossroads of fashion at Fifth Avenue and 58th Street in New York City, Bergdorf Goodman is known throughout the world for elegance, luxury, and superior service. The store itself is ultra-luxurious, housed in what was once a Vanderbilt mansion, but was converted to the flagship Bergdorf location in 1928. The ground floor has beauty items and fragrances; the first floor is accessories and jewelry; the second floor is the show salon and European designer boutiques; the third floor has designer collections; the fourth floor has its very own couture and evening selection; the fifth floor is the contemporary collections department; the sixth floor is sportswear and lingerie; the seventh floor has very chic and very pricey decorative home collections. The clothing and accessories are all a bit expensive and rarely put on sale, geared more towards the Upper East Side “ladies who lunch” or at least anyone who can afford the store’s lengthy selection of couture. On the ninth floor, the John Barrett salon caters to the always-perfectly-coiffed and offers assorted styles and treatments, as well as a full-service nail salon with excellent, albeit über-pricey, manicures and pedicures. There is also a restaurant on the Seventh floor called BG
that overlooks Central Park and features contemporary American cuisine like deviled eggs, wild mushroom tart, and the Gotham salad.
Saks Fifth Avenue
Saks is a staple of New York department stores and has been transformed by renovations and improvements since it opened in 1924. Today, the stunning building occupies the entire length of the block across the street from historic Rockefeller Center
, right next to St. Patrick’s Cathedral
. The first floor is a beautiful marble-covered grand hall which houses a gigantic selection of cosmetics and perfumes from brands like NARS, Mac, T. LeClerc, La Mer, and Chanel. Bond No. 9 even has its very own scent named after named after Saks! If you take a walk around the first floor you’ll also find sections of jewelry, handbags, and hats, gloves and scarves. Then there's the expansive—and recently renovated—second floor and its selection of designer sportswear, which is just as chic and pricey as one would imaginer. Miu Miu, Christian Louboutin, Prada, Alexander Mc Queen, Manolo Blahnik, Repetto, Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Dior, Fendi, Givenchy, Gucci and Sigerson Morrison are just a few of the heavy-hitting fashion houses that you can find at Saks. Recently the store has also been branching out into some new, edgy designers like Opening Ceremony and Zadig & Voltaire for its women and teen clothing departments. There are also sections for home and gourmet items and men’s and children’s clothing. The ten-floor layout of Saks lends itself beautiful to easy-to-find, categorized sections for men's, women's, designer clothes, shoes and so on.
Since 1895, Bendel's has been a shopaholic's paradise and a bona fide New York landmark for those looking to indulge in high-end and trendy shopping. Despite its great history and age, Bendel’s merchandise slants towards the younger set, keeping in step with today's fashions with a youthful eye. The store often plays host to a number of burgeoning designer trunk shows every day, earning the store its fabulous reputation for discovering new designers before the mainstream. The make-up department has a dedicated section of MAC products that also offers a make-up service if you need dolling up for an event or just a new look. The handbag selection is more limited than you'll find at other stores, but what Bendel’s lacks in shoes and bags, it makes up for in accessories. The hair accessories selection at Bendel’s is known throughout the fashion world as one of the best, with innovative feathered or studded pieces from new, upcoming designers as well as classic silk and bejeweled pieces that skew more towards demure. Up the elegant staircase—which showcase's Bendel's expansive sunglasses selection—you’ll find a number of jewelry collections that are to die for, many of which are exclusive to Bendel’s. The perfumes are located right next to the jewelry; a fitting place since this particular room, where their scents and perfumes are located, looks just like a little treasure trove, with hard-to-find perfumes from all over the world as well as an area where you can create your own scents. The clothing on the third and fourth floors is definitely geared toward a younger audience, so you're sure to find lots of fun, glamorous party and evening dresses and a year-round selection of bathing suits that will make you absolutely covetous.
Barneys New York
Barneys has been a Mecca for discerning fashionistas and clothing connoisseurs since 1923. It’s well-known for being the youngest—and arguably, the coolest—of the city’s department stores. Fresh, young brands are stocked there like the hard-to-find Alexander Wang, Proenza Schouler, Lanvin.Acne, BOY by Band of Outsiders, Madison Marcus, Trovata, Vena Cava, and Maison Martin Margiela. Barneys also has a chain of “little sister” stores called Barneys CO-OP, a self-described “place where age means diddly," this "wayward offspring of Barneys” has its own eponymous brand that combines its knowledge of the current trends with its downtown chic sensibilities to offer more affordable pieces in the same vein and spirit as regular Barneys merchandise. On top of that they also carry hip, on-trend items from Rag and Bone, Theory, Antik Batik and Opening Ceremony. Twice a year, the store hosts the “Barneys Warehouse Sale,” a giant shopping event that takes place in a huge space in Chelsea and offers incredible discounts on pieces from the best brands on the market (even couture gowns from Ralph Lauren and Lanvin). The sale is a must if you're in New York when it’s going on, but prepare yourself for a spectacle, as there are no dressing rooms and no shortage of fashion-obsessed, discount-crazed women willing to fight for their cut-rate designer finds.
World famous luxury mini-department store and boutique Jeffrey carries clothes from YSL, Prada, Lanvin, Bottega Veneta, Dries Van Noten, Marni, and many more. The buyer for the store has a keen eye so expect to find lots of things here that you won't find anywhere outside of the designer's own boutique. Instead of running all over the city to each designer boutique a trip to Jeffrey is a one-stop shop for an incredible selection of great designs at great prices.
Founded in 1831 in Japan, Takashimaya is one of the world's largest chains of department stores. You can find housewares, men's, women's and children's clothing, gardening supplies, and beauty items, all inspired by the Japanese aesthetic that defines the store.
Classic New York Department Stores
Macy’s is just about the most “New York” shopping experience you’ll get and certainly the most historic. The “World’s Largest Store” located on Herald Square has attracted droves of tourists and natives every year since its opening in 1902. Inside the iconic building, you can find everything from clothing to home improvements to makeup and more. The beauty floor at Macy’s is absolutely incredible and offers make-up from Benefit, MAC, Stila, Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Cle de Peau, Dior, Shu Uemera, and Clinque, all in a setting that's as stunning as the selection. The store has a total of ten floors and thankfully provides maps, as well as customer service personnel at Information Desks who direct you to what you want. There’s also a balcony looking over 34th Street that houses the Macy’s Visitor Information Center, so if the throng of shoppers becomes overwhelming, you can duck upstairs and find out where everything you need is! The Visitor’s Center personnel speak a number of different languages to accommodate guests from around the world and can even provide you with information about the city itself. Another great feature of the store is “Macy’s By Appointment,” a personal shopper service who will consult with you to find out your needs and then get it for you! And be sure you check out the basement during your visit, where you’ll find The Cellar, a large section featuring gourmet treats and Godiva chocolates, as well as tools and cookbooks for the chef in your life.
Despite its nearly 150 years, Bloomingdale’s has typically been geared towards a younger generation of consumer while offering enough variety to please every member of the family. There's a section for home goods, beauty items, jewelry and accessories, menswear, and women, teen and children’s clothing. Bloomingdale's casual vibe doesn't lend itself well to couture designers, and you won't be likely to find any high fashion in the store. Brands like UGG, Michael Kors, BCBG, Tory Burch, Juicy Couture, and Marc by Marc are more the sort of thing you can expect to find at Bloomingdale's. Just in case a trip around the store’s gourmet cooking section leaves you feeling hungry, the Lexington Avenue store has a famous and delicious frozen yogurt shop called 40 Carats that can’t be missed!
Lord & Taylor
While they no longer have the big-name cachet one associates with Macy's or Bloomingdale's, Lord & Taylor is still very much a retail juggernaut and one of the pillars of New York's department store industry. Started in 1826, Lord & Taylor has been a company obsessed with innovation, which led them to be the first big retailer to establish a store on Fifth Avenue, the first to install a much-needed elevator, and the first to offer personal shoppers. In short, the ingenious and forward-thinking minds at Lord & Taylor have shaped the very mindset of the upscale New York shopper.
Discount Department Stores
This discount department store is often referred to as “New York’s Best Kept Secret” because of its relatively low profile outside of the city. New Yorkers stay faithful to the store despite its location near Ground Zero, a true testament to its excellence and incredible deals. If you’re shopping for home there’s a large selection of bed and bath wares, from towels and shower curtains to lovely sheets and pillows. But the most coveted section by far is the designer clothing department where you'll find the best deals in the city on items from Balenciaga, Marc Jacobs, Theory, DKNY, and a huge number of other high-fashion designers. The selection of jeans is also vast, and, what’s more, affordable, even from typically pricey designers like Seven For All Mankind, Joe’s Jeans, and Citizens of Humanity.
TJ Maxx is one of those discount department stores that will almost always surprise you with incredible stuff. Their Sixth Avenue location is notable for its house wares, which can run up to 90% off normal department store prices. There’s a huge selection of towels, bed linens, comforters, pillows, duvets, and rugs to suit almost any style, and the kitchen utilities (cookie sheets, skillets, pans, utensils) are all top-notch and extremely well priced. TJ Maxx is great fun to browse because there's a lot of one-offs in the store, ensuring you’ll walk away with something really unique. For those of us who love the look of candlelight but don’t appreciate the ever-rising prices of most candles, you can always count on TJ Maxx to have a ton of deliciously-scented candles available to you at $15 or less. The designer clothing and jeans are priced very reasonably, and you'll almost always leave with something.
Filene’s Basement is a wonderful institution because there are so many locations around the city, each of which is great for finding anything you need at a low price. The Union Square outpost features a huge selection of socks and stockings at very low prices, and in that same section you can also find gloves, hats, scarves, umbrellas, and handbags. The clothing selection at Filene’s isn’t the best of the discounted department stores, but if you’re looking for something basic and not too flashy, they’ve got you covered.
At SYMS, they say "an educated consumer is our best customer." An easy slogan to make good on when the company has been offering "off-price" designer clothes for over fifty years, this store has offered “off-price” designer clothes. Mmen, women, and children will find brands like DKNY, Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, and Missoni at most SYMS locations, and everything from coats to swimwear to handbags and luggage. You won't find a lot of discounted couture3or any, for that matter—but it’s always a cheap and a reliable source of classy basics like coats, shoes, suits, jeans, and active wear.
What can you get at national super-chain K-Mart? Well, if you’re in the market for toys, bicycles, refrigerators, animal crackers, laundry detergent, sneakers, socks, home furnishings, towels, ovens, air-conditioners, t-shirts, shoelaces, Doritos, ice, Halloween costumes, scooters or shower curtains, you can find them at K-Mart at a great price.You'll never find established designer fashions in this store like you would at Century 21 or TJ Maxx, but this is a department store of a different kind that's primarily excellent for home goods and furnishings. You’ll find incredibly low prices on really essential things for your bathroom, kitchen, and bedroom, as well as apparel necessities like t-shirts, socks, underwear, robes, and the like.