This Week in Business History- Episode 24

“Macy and one of his brothers would first open a dry goods store in California – – at the height of the gold rush. The store failed. As did the next 4 stores that R.H. Macy would open. All failures. But Macy would gather his critical lessons learned from each of the disappointments. And he’d apply those to his newest venture: R.H. Macy Dry Goods in New York City.”

-Scott Luton, Host, This Week in Business History


In this episode, Scott W. Luton dives into the story behind the story of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and how it got started. He also sheds a little little on Macy’s genesis – – as well as the challenging set of circumstances that the company finds itself in now.


Scott Luton (00:12):

Good morning, Scott Luton here with you on this edition of this week in business history. Welcome to today’s show on this program, which is part of the supply chain. Now family of programming. We’ll take a look back at the upcoming week, and then we share some of the most relevant events and milestones from years past, of course, mostly business focused with a little dab global supply chain. And occasionally we might just throw in a good story outside of our primary realm. So I invite you to join me on this. Look back in history to identify some of the most significant leaders, companies, innovations, and perhaps lessons learned in our collective business journey. Now let’s dive in to this week in business history.

Scott Luton (01:13):


Scott Luton (01:14):

Hello and thanks for joining us. I’m your host Scott Luton. And today on this edition of this week in business history, we’re focusing on the week of November 23rd. Thanks so much for listening to the show before we get started, I want to share a story. I came across this past week. One of our newest podcasts here at supply chain now is led by the immensely talented Caryn bursa it’s entitled tech talk, digital supply chain podcast. On the most recent episode, Kerryn interviews, a leading global figure, especially in the world of supply chain. Laura Seseri. Laura gave a fascinating interview on her background. What really stood out to me is where she got her start. Laura chose to major in chemical engineering and was discouraged by many of her academic advisors and professors. In fact, after Laura had received a poor grade on a class assignment, one of her engineering professors held the grade up in front of the class and announced, this is why women should not be engineers, but that attempt to belittle Laura’s potential would only fuel her motivation and perseverance.

Scott Luton (02:19):

Eventually Laura sincerely would not only graduate college with a chemical engineering degree with honors module, but it would launch her career where she’d go on to do huge things in industry. Now in 2020, when big news breaks in global supply chain and manufacturing, uh, promise you that one of the first calls that folks in media make to get analysis and the real story. Well, many of those first calls go to Laura. Seseri here’s the big lesson learned folks. If you want to do something in this life, do it. Don’t listen to those who discourage you and doubt your abilities. Use that as fuel chase your passions, dream big and do it just like Laura said a great story. I’ll include a link to the podcast and show notes of this episode back to today’s episode of this week in business history though, today we’re diving into the backstory of a big annual tradition right here, here in the States, the Macy’s Thanksgiving day parade.

Scott Luton (03:21):

We’ll be sharing a few things that I bet you didn’t know. I know I didn’t. So stay tuned and thanks again for joining us here on this week in business history, powered by our team here at supply chain. Now since 1924, one of regular traditions during Thanksgiving week has been the grand parade, the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving day parade. Let’s make a plate leftovers and dive into various aspects of this tradition. For starters, let’s learn a little bit more about the department store behind the event. Rollin Hussey Macy was born on Nantucket Island and met Massachusetts in 1822. In fact, the Macy family were amongst the earliest settlers in Nantucket. They were part of the group of non-English family that bought the Island in 1659. It’s been said that the price was exactly 30 pounds Sterling and precisely to Beaver hats, a water deal at the end page 15 R H Macy would join the crew of a whaling vessel.

Scott Luton (04:27):

He’d serve on just one whaling expedition, just enough to determine that whaling was not for him. Hey, I don’t blame him also just long enough as the legend goes to get a red star tattooed on his arm. That’s where the red star and the Macy’s logo and branding is reported to have come from Macy. And one of his brothers would first open a dry goods store in California at the height of the gold rush that store failed as did the next four stores that are H Macy would open all failures. Macy would gather his critical lessons learned from each of the disappointments and need to apply those to his newest venture. R H Macy dry goods in New York city. First day of business was October 28th, 1858, sales totaled $11. There’s an 8 cents. That’s about 325 bucks today, or she or saw about 85,000 in sales and the business expanded to occupy 11 adjacent buildings, as well as a few new stores.

Scott Luton (05:33):

And just like that, the modern department store was launched in RH. May he had a ton of innovative tricks up his sleeve too. [inaudible] and stand out such as having an in-store Santa to draw kids and their parents with purchasing power creative window displays that caused the buzz. These Macy’s displays eventually created a new term window shopping. Macy’s also did away with a common practice in the late 19th century bargaining and haggling for goods, R H Macy would set the price, advertise that price and kept true to that one price in the stores. The customer experience at Macy’s stood out as well, especially with money back guarantees and in-house customized clothing options for both men and women, but sadly rollin Hussey Macy would die at the early age of 54 in 1877, due to kidney disease. The Macy family would maintain ownership until 1895. When the Strauss brothers is adore and Nathan would buy the company in 1902, the flagship Macy’s store would move to its well-known location and where it is today, Herald square in New York city in 1911 Macy’s would be added to the New York stock exchange under the ticker symbol M which is still today by 1924, as a company had continued to just about acquire the entire block border by seventh Avenue, Broadway, 34th street and 35th street in New York city Macy’s Herald square location became the largest store in the world.

Scott Luton (07:14):

It was only Thanksgiving day, November 27th, 1924, that the very first Macy’s Christmas parade would be held. Yep. Initially it was called a Christmas parade in an effort at boosting holiday sales Macy’s employees would organize a parade. It wasn’t a new idea. In fact, the Macy’s team may have gotten inspiration from the city of Philadelphia who still has the nation’s oldest Thanksgiving day parade, which started in 1920. But back in 1924, the Macy’s Christmas parade had some competition. Did you know that Thanksgiving here in the us once resembled Halloween, get this back in the early and mid 20th century on Thanksgiving day, people young and old would dress up in costumes. Papier-mache masks were really popular in particular so much so that manufacturers of the mass had a hard time keeping up with demand. Hey, does that sound familiar? In New York city, it became a tradition for children to dress in rags, Charlie chaplains, beggar character from the movie, the tramp was inspiration for many and just like Halloween.

Scott Luton (08:22):

It became a tradition for the children to go to their neighbors and ask for treats. Ragamuffin day became a thing on Thanksgiving day. That’s right. They called it ragamuffin day. And ragamuffin parades became all the rage, especially in New York city. So that first Macy’s Christmas parade had to compete with ragamuffin day, which by the way, thankfully faded into obscurity in the 1930s and forties, the Macy employees would assemble quite an entourage. Three floats all pulled by horses for bands, even zoo animals from central park zoo, which would include camels, donkeys, elephants, even goats got in on the action in that very first parade, Santa Claus would be at the end of the line, the caboose, if you will, a tradition that continues on to this day and parades across the country. The 1924 parade was a hit. It had an audience in attendance of about 10,000 people in 1927.

Scott Luton (09:23):

The parade was renamed. What we all know now as the Macy’s Thanksgiving day parade, but even a bigger change that year was the introduction of balloons. Yes, those iconic signature balloons that come to mind. When you think of the Macy’s parade, many point to one Tony Sarge for coming up with the balloon idea, he was a marionette maker that came to the States from London. The zoo animals have become a bit unwieldy for the parade organizers and they were scaring the kids too. So balloons were thought of, and they replaced the contingent from the zoo. The very first balloon you ask. Well, that honor went to Felix, the cat, a cartoon character that had been invented during the silent film era, but organizers had one small problem with balloons. There was no way to deflate them. So at the conclusion of the parade, they were released into the air and eventually all popped, but the release of the balloons would cause all sorts of problems.

Scott Luton (10:19):

And it was discontinued in 1932, 1934 was a big year for the parade as a Mickey mouse balloon appeared for the first time. But just who made all of these balloons? Well, as some might expect, Goodyear tire and rubber company was instrumental. In fact, Goodyear would make the balloons from 1927. The very first year to 1980 Kemp balloons would make them from 1981 to 1983. And from 1984 through last year, Sioux falls, South Dakota based Aerostar would make the balloons Aerostar is a division of Raven industries. I manufactured. It was founded in 1956 by four men who left general mills after receiving startup capital to launch operations. But in those early years, the Macy’s Thanksgiving day parade was largely and solely a New York event then came the 1947 film the classic miracle on 34th street, where Macy’s in the parade plays a big role. In fact, footage from the 1946 parade appears in the film, R H Macy also appears in the film portrayed by Harry antrum.

Scott Luton (11:33):

Although Macy had officially passed away, of course, decades prior, regardless the parade would gain more of a national following. Thanks to the film. Also in 1947, NBC would televise the parade across the country for the first time. Over the years, the parade would appear in a wide variety of Americana pop culture. Do you remember the Seinfeld episode where Elaine wins a spot in the parade for her boss to hold the Woody woodpecker balloon friends, the sitcom would feature a parade tie-in related to the underdog balloon in its first Thanksgiving episode. Even a 2016, reboot of Ghostbusters would also feature a storyline. That includes the parade. The 2020 parade will certainly be different, unfortunately, as it’s being produced in a four TV only approach, but what are the company behind the parade? Like all other retailers, the pandemic has deeply impacted Macy’s for the quarter that ended October 31st, the company’s revenue was off 23% relatively speaking.

Scott Luton (12:39):

That was significantly worse than other retailers like Kohls, TJ Maxx, Walmart target, of course, Walmart and target also offer groceries. And they were also allowed to stay open during the pandemic. In fact Macy’s and some retail lobbying groups are on the offensive, reaching out to governments here in the States, lobbying leaders to allow retail stores to stay open. Given the productive measures that have been implemented, strategic moves that Macy’s has made in recent months include closing unproductive stores and experimenting with discounted clothing lines. However, one big challenge that Macy’s has the deteriorating mall landscape in the U S that’s right? Shopping malls. You and I probably remembered those very well from our childhoods. Even prior to the pandemic, the most successful us malls were indeed losing foot traffic. COVID-19 simply accelerated the traffic laws and the path ahead, certainly doesn’t look promising for malls. So Macy’s CEO, Jeff Jeannette has his work cut out for him.

Scott Luton (13:46):

According to CoStar Macy’s is the biggest tenant in us malls. Can the company pull off a transformation in light of major consumer buying and preference shifts? Lots of shifts there. We’ll see. It reminds me of the quote from Amelia Earhart. The most difficult thing is the decision to act. The rest is merely tenacity. Hey, on a separate note, if you like a good documentary, let my wife, Amanda and I do. And if you’re fascinated in the decline of the mall scene in the U S then check out the documentary Jasper mall, which focuses on a dying mall in the small town of Jasper, Alabama, it was released at the beginning of 2020, and the story is intriguing. You’re going to love the people that it features good, hardworking people, all dealing with the hand that they’ve been dealt. Finally, as we start to wrap up this episode, I want to wish each and every listener, a very happy Thanksgiving with you and your families.

Scott Luton (14:45):

You don’t need me to tell you that 2020 has been historically challenging on so many levels, but it certainly does make me want to be even more grateful for what we do have and enjoy. I hope each and everyone listening will enjoy a successful close to the end, thankfully of 2020. Well, that wraps up this edition of this week in business history. Those were some of the stories that stood out to us, but Hey, what do you think? Find us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, and share your comments there. We’re here to listen. Thanks so much for listening to our podcast. Hey, be sure to check out a wide variety of industry thought friendly reminder. You can now find this week in business history, wherever you get your podcasts from and be sure to tell us what you think we’d love to earn your review on behalf of the entire team here at this week in business history and supply chain. Now this is Scott and wishing all of our listeners, nothing but the best. Hey, do good give forward and be the change that’s needed. And on that note, we’ll see you next time here on this week in business history. Thanks for much

Would you rather watch the show in action?  Watch as Scott introduces you to This Week in Business History through our YouTube channel.

Scott W. Luton is the founder & CEO of Supply Chain Now. He has worked extensively in the end-to-end Supply Chain industry for more than 15 years, appearing in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Dice and Quality Progress Magazine. Scott was named a 2019 Pro to Know in Supply Chain by Supply & Demand Executive and a 2019 “Top 15 Supply Chain & Logistics Experts to Follow” by RateLinx. He founded the 2019 Atlanta Supply Chain Awards and also served on the 2018 Georgia Logistics Summit Executive Committee. He is a certified Lean Six Sigma Green Belt and holds the APICS Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) credential. A Veteran of the United States Air Force, Scott volunteers on the Business Pillar for VETLANTA and has served on the boards for APICS Atlanta and the Georgia Manufacturing Alliance. Follow Scott Luton on Twitter at @ScottWLuton and learn more about Supply Chain Now here:


Resources, Links, and Events Mentioned in This Episode:


Subscribe to This Week in Business History and all Supply Chain Now Programming Here:
Leave a review for Supply Chain Now:
Connect with Scott on LinkedIn:
Check out Lora Cecere on TEK TOK here:
Download the Q3 2020 U.S. Bank Freight Payment Index: