The best of New York shopping


Eloise Barker

Title photography by deberarr

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December 2018

Is there any greater pleasure than spreading out your newly-bought bargains on your hotel bed after a day treasure-hunting? In case you needed reminding, here are the best flagships, department stores and outlets around NYC. Get your New York shopping fix here.

Iconic New York department stores

Macy’s New York Herald Square

Macy’s is so synonymous with New York that it has its own Thanksgiving parade, watched by millions. It’s the largest department store in the United States – so prepare for a lot of ups and downs on the escalators on your shopping adventure (and look out for the old wooden – yes wooden – escalators that lead to the upper floors). Spend time admiring the window displays and hit up the departments for Michael by Michael Kors and Adidas. A note of warning: stay away during Black Friday unless you shop on a competitive level.

Saks Fifth Avenue

It used to sell pearls to flapper girls in the 1920s, and it even housed its own indoor ski slope in the 1930s: Saks Fifth Avenue is a bit of a New York institution. Its multitude of windows present a glamorous multi-faceted face to the world, and inside you’ll find Moncler jackets, Stuart Weitzman shoes and the Swedish-style café FIKA. The ground floor beauty department can get pretty hairy, especially during the Christmas rush, but calm is restored on the upper floors.

Barney’s New York is a department store with some serious swagger.

  • The exterior of the flagship Macy's department store. © Brian Kinney / Alamy Stock Photo.

    Fancy flagship

    It claims to be the largest department store in the US – and the second largest in the world. Don’t get lost navigating Macy's.

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Barney’s New York

Ingrained in New York’s pop culture, thanks to multiple mentions in everything from Sex and the City to Seinfeld, Barney’s New York is a department store with some serious swagger. There are two New York locations: Downtown and Madison Avenue. Head here for everything designer, from Gucci to Vetements – then slide into a velvet booth at Fred’s, the fancy Italian-American restaurant on the 9th floor.

Bloomingdale’s New York

Ever seen a ‘medium brown bag’? The brown paper bags which Bloomingdale’s gives to its shoppers are the must-have accessory if you’re walking on the Upper East Side. Brown paper bags are more readily associated with chemists than couture – but the Bloomingdale's version is now so covetable you can even buy a more durable vinyl model. The department store has been clothing fashion-savvy New Yorkers since 1927. Head straight to floors two to four for women’s clothing.

Bergdorf Goodman Inc.

The Bergdorf Goodman department store has graced the good streets of New York since 1901. The menswear and womenswear departments sit across the street from each other in midtown, at the crossroads of 5th Avenue and 58th Street (Louis Vuitton and Tiffany & Co. are opposite). Inside the ladies' shop there’s nine floors of womenswear, including a couture collection and a salon. Meanwhile, gents can peruse three floors of menswear, including Goodman’s made-to-measure suits.

Nordstrom

Two blocks from Central Park and near Columbus Circle, Nordstrom has big plans to take Manhattan – having opened a menswear flagship here in spring 2018. Expect three floors of everything from grooming to dresswear, and a cool shoe department featuring a modern shoeshine station and heaps of Gucci. There are in-store events and mini ‘shops’ by the hippest brands – from Comme des Garçons to Vans. A womenswear flagship store, six times the size, arrives at the end of 2019 on the opposite side of the street.

  • Interior of Barneys New York, Downtown. © Patti McConville / Alamy Stock Photo.

    Another level

    Expect the best designers and brands in Barney's Downtown. Don't forget to check out, or even climb, the iconic white spiral staircase that coils through the middle of the store.

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  • Exterior of Tiffany & Co. 5th Avenue. © Edd Westmacott / Alamy Stock Photo.

    Time for Tiffany's

    Tiffany's glitzy association with diamonds is long-standing, and in 1887 the company actually bought the French crown jewels – which certainly helped its sparkling reputation.

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  • Saks Fifth Avenue department store. © Patti McConville / Alamy Stock Photo.

    Roll up! roll up!

    Saks Fifth Avenue has a glamorous reputation. Both rockstars and runway addicts will both love the fabulous fashion on all floors.

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Fantastic New York flagships

Nike House of Innovation 000

Fed up with the perfume-smog of department stores? Behold: the high-tech bubbled glass façade of the Nike flagship, which opened in November 2018. Inside, it’s a designer’s dream, with carefully curated spaces and high-tech touches: customers can buy goods on their phone and avoid queueing, or have items sent to the changing rooms with a tap of a button. Athletic footwear fanatics can take advantage of the Sneaker Bar and enormous Nike Sneaker Lab on the fourth floor.

Ralph Lauren Flagship

Ralph Lauren is a household name for its preppy fashion: after all, it’s the brand that invented the ‘polo shirt’. Its flagship store on Madison Avenue is actually two elegant town houses, facing each other on either side of the street – one for men, one for women. Inside, in true Ralph Lauren style, you’ll find panelled rooms with woven rugs and leather armchairs. On every wall, the shelves are stacked deep with shirts and v-necked sweaters, in every colour from banana cream to Park Avenue red.

Tiffany & Co.

Inside its polished granite façade, Tiffany & Co. is as exquisite as a jewellery box. Known for its engagement rings, its window displays, and its pretty powder-blue boxes, the New York flagship store is the hallowed home of the Tiffany Yellow Diamond – a stone the size of a small conker – usually sparkling on display on the main shop floor. You might not be able to have breakfast here, but you can have a coffee in the Blue Box Café, tucked away on the fourth floor.

  • The Magnolia Bakery, Greenwich Village. © Alex Segre / Alamy Stock Photo.

    A morsel of history

    Opened in 1996, the famous Magnolia Bakery became popular when it began using its leftover cake batter to make cupcakes. Since then it's been referenced by Sex and the City and The Devil Wears Prada, and thus baked itself into a New York legend.

Beautiful boutiques in quirky New York areas

West Village

West Village has escaped the thrall of chain stores and, true to its name, has a village-y feel, in that its quiet streets are well suited for pedestrians, and you can pop in and out of local delis – and local designers. Head to Odin for statement t-shirts, Maison Margiela togs and quirky fragrances. Running through the heart of west village, famous Bleeker Street experienced a brief period of decline, but is once again becoming a thoroughfare for the thoroughly fashion-savvy. Get a wonderfully curated mix of items from The Daily Edit, then stop at the famous Magnolia Bakery for a cupcake.

Seaport District

The Seaport District – found 15 minutes east of World Trade Center – is an area so up-and-coming that a lot of it isn’t actually built yet. A huge mall is coming to Pier 17 in 2019, but in the meantime, find candy-coloured high heels at SJP, Sarah Jessica Parker’s shoe store, and look out for fashion pop-ups on Front Street. The main reason to visit the area is the amazing gallery-cum-restaurant-cum-designer shop, 10 Corso Como which brought some Milano glamour to NYC when it opened in September 2018, just in time for fashion week. Sift through its delicate rails of garments at this Italian import’s only American outpost.

Outrageous outlets and malls

The Shops at Columbus Circle

On the edge of Central Park, under the soaring twin towers of the Times Warner Center, the mall at Columbus Circle is the perfect one-stop-shop if you only have an afternoon for retail therapy. It’s right next to the Mandarin Oriental hotel and near the Lincoln Center (in fact, you can buy jazz tickets for performances inside). It’s a good, upmarket mall with 50 stores, including a Whole Foods (housing a popular deli), a Lululemon and quirky lucite jewellery from CFDA Accessory Designer of the Year, Alexis Bittar. Dip into retail heaven for a moment of calm off the street.

Century 21

Abandon your airs and graces awhile and sharpen your elbows instead. New Yorkers know that Century 21 is one of the best places in Manhattan for designer bargains. This discount store has been mainstay of the city for the last 50 years, selling a heap of glad rags – and heap is the right word, as once the crowds hit, things (quite literally) go a bit off the rails. Whether you’re after boots, suits or beauty supplies, get rummaging. Find it right next to the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan.

Woodbury Common

Woodbury Common is an open-air village of premium outlets, all just an hour out of New York City. It has plenty of devoted visitors who come to grab outlet stock from their favourite labels. Populated by big brands, from Agent Provocateur to Balenciaga, there’s also a Disney outlet, a Haagen Daas – and a Shake Shack thrown in for good measure. It’s a great place for a full day of shopping and eating. Book an excursion to sort out your round-trip transport in advance.

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Where to stay

The Maxwell

Sak’s Fifth Avenue is close enough for daily drop-ins when you stay at The Maxwell. Modern, with moody lighting, a gym and a pet-friendly policy, it’s a well-located, good-value four-star: perfect if you’re saving money for shops and sightseeing.

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Arlo Soho

The unconventional Arlo Soho doesn’t try and hide the fact that it’s space-efficient. In fact, its so-called ‘micro rooms’ are a key selling point: they’re thoughtfully-designed, cosy spaces for ‘urban explorers’. You’ll find a young crowd at the various bars and restaurants on the property – many up late admiring the views from ART (Arlo Roof Top, the top-floor bar).

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Mandarin Oriental

In-your-face fancy, with huge windows to make the most of its fabulous Central Park views, the luxurious Mandarin Oriental is on Columbus Circle. Décor, dishes, drinks: all have a gentle Asian theme, and the rooms are understated and chic.

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