Remember the saying, Build it and they will come. Oh yeah. They came. In droves. An article in the New York World newspaper said that if you wrote out a listing of all the items sold at Macy's it "would reach Central Park." The article further described Macy's, saying it had "spread itself out along Fourteenth Street and Sixth Avenue until one is at a loss to tell where it begins or where it ends. It is a bazaar, a museum, a hotel, and a great fancy store all combined."
Adding to the allure were large windows showing off the merchandise. Again, we take this for granted, but "window shopping" was something new in the nineteenth century. It started with Bloomingdale's. The usual practice was to clutter up a display window with a bunch of goods available inside. But Bloomingdale's—and soon all the other stores—started decorating the windows with fewer items and more props, creating scenes and an ambiance. A lure to come inside.
Many of these buildings remain--repurposed as the stores moved north. You can see photos here: Ladies Mile Historic District//Nancy Moser