The Power of Presence
I've got the Amazon Prime 36 hour sale on my calendar. I buy from Amazon all the time, might as well get the deals. Jeff Bezos and Amazon.com have transformed how we shop. Accessible processes and affordable prices have closed the expense gap for many, created jobs and fostered small businesses, globally. Amazon has brought a lot of goodness to the world on a very large scale.
This past lazy Sunday afternoon, however, I had a different shopping experience. I decided to head over to Macy's on State Street. An afternoon at Macy's is not a task, it's an event, one to prepare for and savor. I carved out a good part of my day so I wouldn't be rushed. I wore a summer dress, strappy sandals and a little makeup. I bet my doorman thought I had a date - and I did.
A native Chicagoan, I remember when Macy's was Marshall Field's. Luckily to the relief of Chicagoans citywide, Macy's has respectfully kept the essence of Marshall Fields. They maintained the intangible "good will" found on the balance sheet that they likely paid for. Smart business. We all have a Marshall Field's story, whether it's coming to see the Holiday Windows, having lunch in the Walnut Room, being assisted by a personal shopper, buying an item you still have and treasure or meeting under the ornate clock at the corners of Washington & State.
I was going for shoes but Macy's is not a one stop shop. I started in the hat department. While I live in the Millennial my soul is in the 40s. I love hats. I played, trying on all of the most outrageous summer hats with feathers and flowers. A man walking by with his family smiled at me kindly . . . who doesn't love hats? As I left, I had every good intention of going to the shoe department. I was seduced by the dresses, long elegant evening gowns. Many I knew were perfect for me. The same floor houses business attire so I went there - hey there might be a deal? While there, I snapped photos of the intricate mosaic-designed ceiling.
I dawdled at the lingerie department remembering what a treat nice lingerie is and then felt myself drawn to the wedding dresses. Still no shoes, I'm getting there, I'm getting there. The voice inside my head said "don't go, this is silly, you are not going to buy a dress, you'll waste the staff's time." My heart whispered "I bet there are some really pretty dresses inspired by Meghan the Duchess of Sussex' recent wedding. Don't you just want to see?" I did. Christopher caught my eye and invited me in. When I told him I wasn't in the market but just wanted to admire the styles, he then insisted I step in. We had a lovely chat and were later joined by Jessica. We reminisced about movies from the 80s, styles and the future of retail.
I forced myself to break away and enjoy the shoe department.(Sarcasm :-) I struck up a conversation with a lady and her husband as we tried on shoes, and compared and contrasted the styles. One of the great things about the store the size of Macy's (8 floors!) is the massive amount of inventory. You're very likely to find your size and when the season changes, even get a good deal. They need to move the inventory to make room for the new items and if you play it right, (signing up for the text message deals!) you'll walk out with armloads of shopping bags!
Mission accomplished, I couldn't leave just yet - there's the furniture department! Visiting the furniture department is a stand alone experience. The creative staging is inspiring. As I disembarked the 8th floor escalator, I was greeted by Kewsi (pronounced Kwazi) who stopped, introduced himself, asked my name and shook my hand. He reminded me of my Dad, an Eastern European Immigrant, who worked in a steel factory but on the weekends was never without a tie. My Dad would often say 'there are two things you can control in life, how you speak and how you dress."
The subtle impact of thoughtful presence and presentation are worth investing in. (My Dad said so) I look forward to my next indulgent Sunday afternoon at Macy's. They've nurtured and sustained the soul of Chicago. I'm grateful.