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Photo of bottle of R.H.Macy's perfume

R.H. Macy's Perfume Bottle

In the early years of the 20th century, R.H. Macy & Co. had a firm policy of offering well recognized merchandise at a discounted price. In 1909 a group of book publishers, through their Publisher's Association, sued Macy's charging that price cutting was devaluing their copyrights. Macy's countersued charging that the Publisher's Association constituted an illegal trust under the Sherman Antitrust Act.

The publishers responded by cutting Macy's off. Macy's responded by setting up a gray market acquisition system, buying from small, independent book sellers who would buy the titles desired by Macy's and then resell them to the department store. Macy's also set up their own network of bookstores under various, hopefully non-traceable, names. Detectives were hired by the Publisher's Association to identify the source of Macy's books. Small bookstores that got caught selling to Macy's were cut off by the publishers, driving some out of business.

In 1913 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Macy's favor but, as a result of the ruling, owners of well known brands were reluctant to sell to Macy's. Macy's now embarked on an agressive policy of creating store brands. In 2006, 18 percent of Macy's sales came from their own brands and their house brands often outperformed designer labels. In women's wear, Macy's own "Charter Club" was outselling Ralph Lauren.

We don't know the date or exact contents of the bottle shown here but, with its small size and glass stopper it seems almost certain that, at one time, it held a "Macy's" perfume.

As a result of Macy's recent consolidation of Federated Stores under the Macy's label, rumors are swirling that, once again, upscale brands that had formerly sold to select Federated stores may withdraw their goods from Macy's.

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Photo of Phil Goutell
Philip Goutell's Signature

Philip Goutell
Lightyears, Inc.