Just yesterday, it seems, my “uniform” of choice was a blue-flowered Lanz dress. I’d slip on lime green Pappagallo ballerina flats, grab a wooden-handled Bermuda bag (embroidered with my initials, of course), and walk out the door. That was me, stylin’ big time in the ’60’s. Oh yeah!
I vividly remember too wearing Villager madras shorts topped with a short-sleeve McMullen blouse, its round collar boasting a circle pin on the, ahem, correct side.
Or maybe a John Meyer of Norwich navy blue blazer. And penny loafers— Weejuns, of course. On Sundays, I’d slip on a camel hair double-breasted polo coat for church. I rocked!
Just yesterday, it seems, I had a choice of stores where I had no trouble plumping my wardrobe — whether it was Peck & Peck or Arnold Constable, Bonwit Teller or Best & Company. Where are they?
And now, another of my treasured youthful retail icons bites the dust, or at least, crumbles into it. Lord & Taylor’s flagship store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan is downsizing big-time. The Italian Renaissance-styled building was recently purchased for $850 million by WeWorks, a shared work-space company, whatever that is.
In 2018, my all-time favorite department store will operate out of one-quarter its current space —shrinking from 11 floors to three. L&T will still be there, but a shrinky-dink of its former glorious self.
When L&T opened its gilded doors in February, 1914, it attracted 75,000 visitors to 676,000 square feet of retail space. This “temple of urban commerce" boasted a grand entrance arch and copper cornice.
Shoppers heard music from a pipe organ on the seventh floor. They could dine in one of three restaurants on the top floor. At Christmas, thousands of tourists and New Yorkers lined up daily to admire the extravagant display of lights and music.
Thinking back, every friend I knew LOVED seeing L&T’s signature white box emblazoned with a red rose under the Christmas tree or on her birthday present pile.
Months before my first weddIng, I contacted a Red Rose Shopper from L&Ts Fifth Avenue store. That savvy personal shopper gathered a going-away outfit, honeymoon clothes and a fabulous trousseau — they lasted longer than the marriage. Years later I frequented the Girls’ Department buying outfits for little Alex. I’ve spent a major part of my life in the aisles of that store.
What’s happening? Is this because I, like millions of shoppers, have made Amazon my retailer of choice, purchasing everything from printer ink to Kleenex to Bumble & Bumble shampoo from the mega-e-tailer?
A recent WSJ article noted, “Since 2007, the share of e-commerce sales has nearly tripled, while iconic brick and mortar stores, like Circuit City and Sports Authority, have disappeared from the landscape. Others, like Sears and Macy’s, are conducting massive layoffs.”
The Financial Times added, “The Lord & Taylor sale marks the end of an era for one of the crown jewels of New York’s Fifth Avenue, the world’s most expensive shopping street.”
And it’s not making me happy.