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Macy's Herald Square shoppers' guide

If you haven't been lost in the behemoth that is the Herald Square Macy's, then maybe you haven't been there.

Apparently, 30 percent of shoppers in the store appeared to be lost, according to a research study commissioned by Macy's in 2010.

Cue the four-year, $400 million renovation that is in its final phase, and that has re-imagined the self-proclaimed "World's Largest Store" into a more consumer-friendly place, with bright lights, open concept planning and improved ways of getting around.

The 2010 report helped pinpoint locations where customers were getting lost, often due to jagged aisles that obstructed views and signage that wasn't easy to read or see, said Elina Kazan, vice president of medial relations. "It's a more linear approach," she said of the renovation, noting wider aisles and departments organized in a more modular layout. "There's an openness to it, it's a true open concept."

For the average New Yorker, shopping at Macy's still presents its pitfalls -- Is it a tourist trap? Yes. Is it in midtown? Yes. -- but there's no denying the convenience of being able to grab something for everyone on your list, at every price point in one place.

So, to help you as you embark on your holiday shopping, we toured the store from top to bottom to figure out the best way to navigate all 1.2 million square feet of retail space. Here are our tips:

Know your entrances

If you’re shopping for women, enter on the
Photo Credit: Erin Geismar

If you’re shopping for women, enter on the Broadway side of the store. If you’re shopping for men, come in on Seventh Avenue. The new store design has stacked all mens items on the Seventh Avenue building from the cellar (basics and accessories) up to the fifth floor (men’s clothing and outerwear). After the fifth floor, women’s spreads out onto both buildings. The main entrance on Broadway, between 34th and 35th streets, is a tourist destination. It's already decorated for Christmas and already drawing revelers who stop short in the aisle to take photos. But use the entrance on 35th street, near Broadway, to find two sixth-floor express elevators, and three that will take you to all floors.

Enter at the brand new 34th Street Memorial
Photo Credit: Erin Geismar

Enter at the brand new 34th Street Memorial Door to get right into women's beauty and fragrance section. From here you can also take a quick trip up the new curved staircases or central escalators to the mezzanine, which houses additional beauty shops and non-luxury handbags. The renovation turned the entire main floor into a luxury hall, with shops like Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Longchamp and Burberry dominating the real estate. Except for Longchamp, each of these shops has three stories, accessible by their own (glamorous) staircases within the shop. If you want a quick route to the cellar (housewares, tabletop accessories and NYC souvenirs), enter on 34th Street and Broadway, where you’ll find a staircase before you hit the luxury floor.

Know where your escalators and elevators are

This is going to be easier than it
Photo Credit: Erin Geismar

This is going to be easier than it has been in the past. As part of the renovation, escalators were added and also moved from the far ends of the stores (near the doors on Seventh and Broadway) to the central corridors. The reason was specifically so customers could see the escalators out in front of them as they enter and walk through the store -- rather than having to veer right or left, or possibly miss them altogether. Service on some elevators was extended. For example, elevators on the 35th Street side of the store were reprogrammed to stop on additional floors.

Know where to rest

For the weary, there's good news. The renovation
Photo Credit: Erin Geismar

For the weary, there's good news. The renovation brings an eatery to every floor except the main and ninth floors. Stella 34 Trattoria, the sixth floor restaurant, is accessible by an express elevator that goes directly there (you can find it with a sharp right turn when you enter Macy’s through the 35th Street entrance near Broadway) and plenty of seating for both take-out and sit-down meals. There's also an expansive bar.

Know where to eat (and drink)

Some of the newest eateries include a Juice
Photo Credit: Erin Geismar

Some of the newest eateries include a Juice Press, Just Salad and a renovated McDonalds. The Herald Square Cafe on the second floor, Broadway side, sells Starbucks Reserve, champagne and wine.

Throughout departments, more seating has been installed, and dressing rooms/waiting areas have been expanded.

Know where you are and where you're going

Signage has been added and improved by visual
Photo Credit: Erin Geismar

Signage has been added and improved by visual cues like knife and fork icons to indicate restaurants and what’s called "way finding" directions. So the sign won't just say “Children’s, fourth floor”, it will show you which direction you have to go to get there from where you are. Signs also now jut out into the aisles, so you don't have to turn a corner to see them. Paper copies of store maps should be available at every entrance.

Know where to find your best vantage points

The new renovation focuses on visibility. The aisles
Photo Credit: Erin Geismar

The new renovation focuses on visibility. The aisles are bigger so you can see straight down them and get a glimpse of the products on the other side of the store. The central escalators have been opened up so you can see what products are on the floor you’re approaching, as an alternative to following signs. The expanded mezzanine is another good option if you get lost in the hustle and bustle of the first floor. Walk up the staircase or take the new escalators to get a clear view of the entire floor below you.

Know which items are grouped together -- and which are not

Some items that logistically go together were separated
Photo Credit: Erin Geismar

Some items that logistically go together were separated before the renovation. For example, men’s suiting was originally on the third floor, but the alterations department was in the cellar. The renovation brings those things together on the fifth floor. That’s the trend for all departments, as is the idea of splitting men’s and women’s products. So you’ll find men’s fragrances on main floor, Seventh Avenue side; women’s fragrances on the main floor, Broadway side. But you’ll also find items grouped by brand, which could be helpful if you find one part of the store particularly crowded. For example, the widest selection of handbags is on the mezzanine level, but you could also try a specific department -- like the Tommy Hilfiger shop, on the fourth floor -- for a handbag by that designer.

Know where Santa is and when he's coming (so you can avoid him)

Santa Land is on the eighth floor and
Photo Credit: Erin Geismar

Santa Land is on the eighth floor and this year it will be bigger than ever with a Build-a-Bear workshop and toy shop accompanying Santa. Unfortunately, the women’s department is also on the eighth floor, so you may not be able to avoid it, but Macy’s does employ elevator directors to help move traffic along, and there’s a designated elevator for strollers and wheelchairs. Santa shows up at 7 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 28 and will be in residence through 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve. The biggest crowds show up for Santa on evenings and weekends, so it’s a big advantage if you can plan around that -- which is a good rule of thumb for avoiding all crowds, not just the Santa-seekers.

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