- Amazon and Seattle are now inextricably linked. But long before Amazon came along, there was a nine-story department store building in the heart of downtown Seattle: Macy’s, formerly the Bon Marché.
- Now, Macy’s is closing 30 stores across the country in early 2020. The iconic Seattle flagship store is one of them.
- The top six floors have been transformed into Amazon office space, while the store has been banished to the bottom three levels until February, when it plans to close for good.
- I visited the department store on Cyber Monday in 2019 and found a less-than-festive scene. Here’s what my visit was like.
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Amazon and Seattle are like holidays and gift-giving: You can’t think of one without the other.
But long before Amazon, there was another name that was synonymous with Seattle’s retail scene: the Bon Marché. A small shop founded by Josephine and Edward Nordhoff in 1890, the Bon Marché grew over the years into a regional department-store chain.
In 1929, the Bon Marché unveiled its nine-story flagship building in the heart of downtown Seattle. The chain was acquired by the parent company of Macy’s in the ’90s, and in 2003 it became the Bon Macy’s, then later just Macy’s.
But over the course of the last century, Seattle’s most iconic department store has remained largely the same: nine magnificent stories of retail’s best in a one-stop shop. Then, Amazon came to town.
Macy’s is closing 30 stores in early 2020, and the Seattle flagship store is one of them. It’s being slowly gutted from the inside. Now, the top six stories of the art-deco building have been transformed into Amazon office space. Only the bottom three stories remain a Macy’s, which will close in February. The post-Macy’s fate of those three floors is still unknown.
I took a look around the store on Cyber Monday in 2019 and found a less-than-festive scene. Here’s what it was like:
I hopped on a bus to downtown Seattle and got off near the Macy’s building.
The building takes up an entire block, so it’s hard to miss. It still bears the name of its original occupant: the Bon Marché.
But even though the building has a giant Macy’s sign, the first entrance I encountered was to Amazon.
Next to Amazon’s door was a plaque proclaiming the building’s status as a historic place.
But from what I could see, the building looked fairly modern on the inside.
After rounding a corner, I found an entrance to Macy’s.
The store was palatial, with dramatic lighting and colourful displays. However, an existential gloom seemed to drip from its beveled ceilings.
At the entrance, there was a dedicated counter for customer service and online order pickup.
Christmas classics echoed through the store, but the nostalgia only emphasised how outdated it felt to walk through Macy’s.
But it’s not like Macy’s wasn’t trying. Many stylish, impactful displays successfully conformed to current aesthetic trends.
Other displays, though sleek and beautiful, seemed like they were catering to a market that no longer exists.
As always, Macy’s offered a free gift with the purchase of a certain dollar amount of cosmetics.
I remember coming to Macy’s as a child with my mother, who got the majority of her makeup through these promotions.
However, with the rise of beauty brands like Glossier that emphasise minimalism and personalisation, the appeal of a set of pre-chosen makeup seems much less potent now.
The store was filled with some incredible deals, but very few shoppers were taking advantage of them.
The jewellery aisles were devoid of perusers, but they featured ridiculously affordable items and substantial discounts.
I took the escalator to the second — now the top — floor of the department store.
It’s primarily a home goods section now. It also contains the kid’s clothing section.
The place was littered with red tags.
I was surprised by how cheap many of the specials were, like this comforter set that was almost 70% off its original price.
There was a part of the top floor dedicated to holiday decorations and the like.
I was impressed not only by the deals, but the experiential quality of this section.
There were decorating guides next to many of the displays, which I thought were a nice touch.
Next to “Holiday Lane” was “Macy’s Santaland,” the only residents of which were several employees and a Santa.
I took a selfie and a photo with Santa, who commented on how this would be his last holiday season at this Macy’s.
Although there was no one in line to take pictures with him, Santa said he was confident that business would heat up closer to Christmas.
Still, without visitors to bring the cheer, Macy’s holiday setup felt all too empty.
“I, Robot” is a Will Smith science fiction movie, and also the premier brand of robot vacuum.
This model, which usually sells for over $US400, was on sale for $US280.
I headed back downstairs and made my way to the basement.
As I crossed the escalators, I passed a multi-story wall of sculpted bronze panels, titled “The Spirit of Northwest Industry.”
They were a copy of a sculpture by 20th-century sculptor Dudley Pratt, showcasing the industries that built the Pacific Northwest. If sculpted today, the panels might instead simply display workers sitting at desks.
The basement, which contained more women’s clothing as well as men’s clothing and shoes, felt much more dated than the main floor.
There were great brands, but the downstairs displays were rather lacklustre. Even the mannequins looked a little bored.
Still, 50% off of Tommy Hilfiger clothing was nothing to sniff at.
But with the store’s closure looming, this Macy’s holiday season is shaping up to be more gloom than glam.
A store associate, who requested to remain anonymous, told me that the employees did not know what would happen to them after the store closed.
So far, Macy’s has not announced plans to find new jobs or other provisions for employees of the Seattle flagship store.
The employee said, “It’s business as usual, happy holidays, until the liquidators come in January.”
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