On October 16th Department Store Day urges us to consider how department store innovations have impacted shopping in our daily lives. 

In existence since the early 19th century, department stores provided safe, clean environments for the new middle class to shop. They often offered many firsts, combining services with revolutionary style and convenience. Many department stores had lunch counters where shoppers could take a break for a drink, snack or lunch.  

Through an era when merchandising and sales could be described as an art form, the brick and mortar stores were often magnificent pieces of architecture. With large clocks, brass, and statuary, the customer’s satisfaction was key. Some departments fill entire floors, making grand escalators, elevators, and plush seating a must.

While department stores are on the decline, many shoppers still enjoy browsing through the latest styles, testing out the newest electronics, and having someone assist them with the details of a purchase. Many shoppers couple the advantages of comparison shopping online catalogs, then visit their department store for the real-feel decision.

HOW TO OBSERVE #DepartmentStoreDay

Learn more about department store history. Watch documentaries such as The Store or Secrets of Selfridges. And since we know some department stores lure us in with their enticing displays, share your favorite! Of course, retail therapy is always an option. Visit your favorite department store and explore the sales. Use #DepartmentStoreDay to post on social media.


National Day Calendar continues researching the origins of this retail holiday.

Department Store FAQ

Q. Are department stores on the decline?
A. Yes. Despite rising retail sales, department store closures continue. Recent economic stressors only add to their growing stress.

Q. What is the leading department store in the United States?
A. According to Statista, Macy’s sales topped all the others in 2020.

Q. What is the oldest department store still in operation in a brick and mortar location?
A. Until 2021, the answer would have been Lord & Taylor. The business opened in 1821 and survived for 200 years. It is still in operation, but only online. Macy’s, which opened its first store in 1958, takes the new title. At the beginning of 2021 it had 544 locations.