MACY’S

Enter the world of elegant chaos. The “Nutcracker Suite” played, and Christmas decorations abounded as I strode through the Herald Square flagship’s main floor.

After arriving on the sixth floor domesics department, I and hordes of other lunchtime shoppers were greeted by hard-hitting, fully realized Christmas displays. The table linens section featured shelves of holiday placemats discounted 40 percent. There were Barclay Christmas quilts ($24.99) bins; holiday towels by Renaissance Christmas shower curtains by Saturday Knight; yuletide rugs by Hayim; seasonal lotion dispensers by LaMont; holiday throws ($49.99) by Fieldcrest, The Rug Barn and Goodwin Weavers; and pillows by Dakota. Everything screamed Christmas. And that was only the beginning in this vast department.

Early afternoon is not the best of times to hit the understaffed Macy’s. The lone sales associate had been taken hostage in the table linen department, with a long line of shoppers queued up for his attention. Nevertheless after 50 minutes, even my patience had run out. The real miracle on 34th street, I found out, was getting a Macy’s sales associate’s attention.

7 3 P.M.:

ABRAHAM & STRAUS

You know good help is hard to find when someone from the buying office is on the floor creating the Christmas table linen display. Either that, or this A&S takes its displays more seriously than most. Still, display cannot mean much to a store where boxes of stock are piled high in the bedding department during peak afternoon shopping hours, blocking traffic entering or exiting the department.

8 4 P.M.:

PORTICO

If the sales help in SoHo seems to know more than their uptown counterparts, it is probably because they have more time to spend showing it.

Sixty minutes with a Portico sales associate and I learned everything I will ever need to know about Peter Reed, Nancy Koltes, SDS, Bellora, Pure Zone, Hillcrest and so on. Wisely, the help gave me time to get acquainted with the merchandise before breaking the spell. Portico has much in common with neighboring art galleries: The store is perfect for private viewings.

9 5 P.M.:

PIER 1

A store known for its endless stream of decorative pillows had only one with a Christmas design. “But it’s a very nice one,” said a sales associate when asked about the lack of assortment.

However, generic placemats, napkins and napkin rings were cleverly mixed in with Christmas displays. One thing I can say about this store – they have a knack for cross-merchandising, like displaying Cinnamon Spice Sugar Cookie mix with multi-colored sprinkles in a jar and Santa beverageware. But, if you’re looking for help, you’ll likely find it only behind the cash register.

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