Origin of the Christmas Parade

Home Inspector with Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC 3380-000723

"Our goal is to be a retailer with the ability to see opportunity on the horizon and have a clear path for capitalizing on it.  To do so, we are moving faster than ever before, employing more technology and concentrating our resources on those elements most important to our core customers."

Macy's Department Stores Mission Statement
Rowland Hussey Macy (1822-1877)
R.H. Macy accomplished a lot in a short 54 year life.  Leaving home at 15 to join a whaler company and sail the Atlantic Ocean, he worked there for four years.  During that time he acquired a large red star tattoo on his forearm.  That red star became the logo for his department store many years later.
Opening a "fancy dry goods" store in New York in 1858, his first-day sales totaled $11.08 (about $297 in today's dollars).  He plugged on however, with innovative policies like clearly marking prices (instead of haggling), and advertising those prices with lively and colorful newspaper ads.  His newspaper and magazine ads utilized set large-block letters, using marketing words and phrases over and over, and were instantly recognizable.  And he made history by hiring the first female executive for a major American retail store.
However, Macy had a lot to do with today's vibrant Christmas sales market.  He was the first to seize upon Santa as a way of selling goods, Christmas cards and wrapping paper.  He hit on this idea at the right time.  Nationally the Christmas tree was coming into vogue, as well as the recognition of Christmas as a religious and family holiday.
How did he capitalize on it?
  • He was the first to employ an in-store Santa in 1862.  Children came from all over to tell Santa their secret desires and Christmas toy wishes.  Of course the parents were in the perfect place to make their Christmas list come true.
  • The country, and world, began to recognize Macy's as the instigator of the annual Christmas Parade.  Of course, the last of the parade was a sleigh with Santa himself riding inside!  After the parade Santa took up his seat inside the store to greet the long line of children waiting to see him!  This affair eventually morphed into the annual Thanksgiving Day Parade, which Macy used to kick off the Christmas buying season.  His parade was a marketing ploy for getting people to New York and to flock to his store at Christmas time.
  • Customers loved crowding outside his store to peer into the large, decorated windows, which advertised the latest in fashion, kitchen wares, and toys.  His friend P.T. Barnum suggested he make them more elaborate by using moving figures to tell various Christmas stories.  The windows became the hit of the season, and a practice picked up on by many other retailers around the nation at Christmas time.
  • He began accepting mail order.  That, too, grew into a huge market for the Macy's store.

All in all, employing a capitalist spirit and shrewd business tactics (like mergers), the store eventually grew to be the largest department store in the world.  His short life left quite the legacy to the world of retailing success and free enterprise economics.


Posted by

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560


Comments (16)

Wayne Martin
Wayne M Martin - Chicago, IL
Real Estate Broker - Retired

Good morning Jay. Execution on the creative ideas of the mind can lead to tremendous success. Persistence helps! Enjoy your day!

Dec 11, 2019 04:34 AM
Michael Jacobs
Pasadena, CA
Los Angeles Pasadena 818.516.4393

Hello Jay - I remember reading a biography of R H Macy when I was a child and later became involved in the retail industry. Although I knew much of his history, I was unaware or don't recall knowing of his tatoo.  More pieces of the puzzle - thanks for additional information.

Dec 11, 2019 04:49 AM
Nina Hollander, Broker
Coldwell Banker Realty - Charlotte, NC
Your Greater Charlotte Realtor

Good morning, Jay... although I grew up in NYC and frequently shopped at Macy's flagship store I did not know this history. This was a great read.

Dec 11, 2019 05:00 AM
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

And timing is everything, Wayne.  Like many things with economics.

Michael - the fishing experience, and tattoo, obviously made an impression on his life!

Thank you, Nina.  Another Christmas post!

Dec 11, 2019 05:26 AM
Kathy Streib
Cypress, TX
Home Stager/Redesign

Hi Jay- I did not know any of this and the most intriguing was the information about the red star!!!!

Dec 11, 2019 05:27 AM
Sally K. & David L. Hanson
EXP Realty 414-525-0563 - Brookfield, WI
WI Real Estate Agents - Luxury - Divorce

Mr. Macy now sneaks into my email...almost daily to remind me of their Christmas offerings....that retailer is really on top of things !

Dec 11, 2019 06:10 AM
Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667, kat@thehousekat.com, Broker/REALTOR® - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

Interesting. I didn't know about any of this and, as with Kathy Streib I loved the story about the red star!

Dec 11, 2019 06:21 AM
Debb Janes EcoBroker and Bernie Stea JD
ViewHomes™- by eXp Realty - Vancouver, WA
REALTORS® in Clark County, WA

I love this great recount of the history of Macy's Christmas spirit. And you are so right, what fun it "was" to visit the Macy's store in downtown Portland this time of year. The Macy's Santa's Parade day included unveiling of the new window displays and of course the BEST Santa around for children. Sadly, our online shopping habits have closed many of our city's big Macy's Department stores. 

Dec 11, 2019 07:14 AM
Grant Schneider
Performance Development Strategies - Armonk, NY
Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes

Good morning Jay Markanich - a great story to tell of American capitalism and entrepreneurship.  He certainly made his mark on Americana.  Not much different than the story of the train stationmaster Richard Sears.

Dec 11, 2019 08:01 AM
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Kathy - the red star surely made an impression on the young Macy!

They all have that ability, S&D.  Computers!  In those days all of their information was probably on index cards in catalog files like at the library.

Logos have reasons, Kat.  Do you know why the Amazon logo has an arrow?

Debb - when I was little the real Santa was at the Woodward and Lothrup store.  All of the other Santas, we were told, were helpers.  I think that's because the family wanted to shop at Woodies.  But shopping then was an all-day event.  We left in the morning on the street car, shopped, ate lunch, shopped, and returned with all the bags on the street car.  Lots of memories.  I remember the big Santa stairs and the elaborate display windows on all the stores outside.

Dec 11, 2019 08:04 AM
Kat Palmiotti

Jay Markanich - I stopped by to see if you had any new posts (I miss them!) and saw this comment, a few months late. I do NOT know why Amazon logo has an arrow.... I just looked at their logo because I couldn't remember an arrow - I always thought that was a smile! :-)

Feb 25, 2020 05:59 AM
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Grant - I wrote an economics blog five years ago about what happened to Roebuck.  He took his money from Sears and opened other businesses that thrived.  Sears died young, from stress, and Roebuck lived a long life.  In the end of his life Sears paid him to travel around to drum up business!

Dec 11, 2019 08:06 AM
Joe Pryor
The Virtual Real Estate Team - Oklahoma City, OK
REALTOR® - Oklahoma Investment Properties

What a tradition to get started. I am not much on the over the top spending of Christmas but I do enjoy the parade.

Dec 25, 2019 08:26 AM
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Mr. Macy started a lot of Christmas traditions, Joe.  He was an interesting man.

Dec 25, 2019 08:31 AM
Roy Kelley
Retired - Gaithersburg, MD

Thank you very much, Jay, for sharing this interesting history lesson.

Dec 28, 2019 07:29 AM
Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP
Selling Homes Changing Lives

Jay - I am very thankful you shared this story about R. H. Macy. He was quite a trail blazer using new innovation and marketing techniques that soon became known around the world. And they even made a movie called Miracle on 34th Street which has become a family tradition during the holidays too! 

Seriously, I didn't know any of this and never wondered about the red star. Something inspired him while sailing on the Atlantic Ocean for the Whaling Company! Imagination sparks in the most unexpected places. 

Gosh, it's early in the morning on January 1, 2020, and I can honestly say, I learned something new today that I didn't know yesterday! 

Jan 01, 2020 06:37 AM
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Patricia - I am happy that you are happy!  And learned something!  I found this to be a fascinating story and wanted to share it.

Jan 01, 2020 06:54 AM