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Moment 2: Fifth Ave Origins

WWD reported the opening of the Lord & Taylor store on Fifth Avenue in 1914, while the debut of Saks & Company’s Fifth Avenue location came six years later.

Fifth Avenue in 1921

Fifth Avenue in 1921.

Photo By GENERAL PHOTOGRAPHIC AGENCY/GETTY IMAGES

Appeared In
Special Issue
WWD 100 issue 11/01/2010

Geographically, New York’s Fifth Avenue separates Manhattan’s East and West Sides. The thoroughfare holds symbolic significance as well as the city’s traditional seat of tony retailing, the origins of which go back as far as WWD itself. On February 20, 1914, the paper reported the opening of the new Lord & Taylor store on Fifth Avenue with the front-page headline “America’s First Store.” Compressed air shoots delivered purchased goods to the cashiers while, on the fourth floor, women could have a color sketch made of exclusive designs. Those shopping for equestrian wear had the added bonus of being “fitted on a mechanical horse that has all gaits. Thus, [the customer] can see the garments in action.” By 1920, another major retailer broadcasted its own move to Fifth Avenue: Saks & Company, which already had a store on 34th Street and Broadway. “Not that we love 34th Street less,” Horace A. Saks told WWD, “but we love Fifth Avenue better.” The new outpost, which opened between 49th and 50th Streets on September 14, 1924, would also pioneer the move toward the upper reaches of the avenue. “Retail history was made today,” proclaimed WWD. Fast-foward to 2010: Fifth Avenue is a mix of high and low, tony and touristy, but its reputation as one of New York’s premiere shopping meccas remains. —V.L.