I tend to stay away from department stores and malls unless I know that there is something specific that I need and can only be gotten there. I have sworn off Macy's in New York - it is friggin' insane in there in every way that you can conceive. Bloomingdale's is better, but not much. Sometimes I will go to Barneys or Bergdorf's or even Henri Bendel...but just for inspiration, sort of like going to a museum where you know you are not buying a thing.
However, I am a Lord & Taylor junkie. Yes, I know - not exactly cutting edge. Probably where your grandmother or 3rd grade teacher shopped in the 70s. I don't know what is going to happen to the flagship store on 5th Avenue and 38th, now that they have been bought and I believe several L&Ts around the country are shutting down or changing to Macy's. But I digress. I go here because:
- I get lots of coupons, 15-20% off
- It is not crowded
- The merchandise doesn't look like it has been dragged through the streets by a pack of wild rats
- The salespeople are extremely nice and helpful and seem to hook you up with good deals, whether or not they were supposed to
- The store in NYC actually has some beautiful clothes and decent designers (esp. on floor 3)
- Their men's house label is actually very nice and much cheaper than designer
- Because nobody cool would be caught dead here, there is lots of merchandise, on sale
I go here to buy gifts for my mom and dad because I know they can return without hassle at the L&T near their house (note to self: make sure that store still exists!).
This year, I had reason to buy two formal outfits - I got them both here, in their fancy section (floor 3), where you get to try on high-end dresses in huge personal dressing rooms. I purchased a dress by Melinda Eng to wear to the Oscars (me: seat-filler, he: my boss) for around $800 (see photo, also note shoes, which are Charles David acquired at DSW for $80). OK, to a normal person this is an eye-popping sum. And I have never spent so much on a dress. But it was originally twice that, and far less than most people paid for their gowns. I have even worn it one or two more times since then!
Then, a few months later, I bought a pink Tahari suit befitting "Lovey" from Gilligan's Island for an awards ceremony. Although I can't recall the exact price, I know that I got it for at least 25% off retail. And good thing I bought it, because I actually won the award and had to thank the audience of 800 people!
So yeah, Lord & Taylor IS your mother's store, but it's probably the best overall department store experience in town.