Percy S. Straus, president of R.H. Macy & Company, in an interview with the Jewish Daily Bulletin, described the effects of the anti-Nazi boycott as they register on the account books of one of the largest department stores in the world.
“Consumer resistance to German merchandise has been extensive and persistent”, Mr. Straus said. “Since the ascension of Adolf Hitler to power in Germany, sales of German, merchandise have fallen off more than fifty percent. The unpopularity of German goods is reflected most emphatically in the diminution of this department store’s recent purchases from Germany, a country which formerly was one of the world’s greatest sources of manufactured goods. Macy’s used to be probably Germany’s best department store customer. During the last four months as a result of this consumer resistance, Macy’s orders placed in Germany have an aggregate of $1,790, as against over $63,000 for the same months in 1932.
“It is true that a small stream of German goods, as compared with a veritable flood in previous years, continues to run into our store rooms; but in time, if consumer resistance continues, this will dry up altogether, Most merchandise still being received, we contracted to buy before popular reaction against the Hitler regime set in”, Mr. Straus said.
ORDERS FAR IN ADVANCE
While he did not give exact figures to indicate the value of German goods being received at Macy’s, the department store president explained that orders are frequently
Mr. Straus said that certain German manufactures were difficult to replace, but that his concern was substituting for them as rapidly as possible. Women’s fabric gloves and children’s full fashion cotton hosiery he cited as examples of superior German merchandise, which could not as yet be duplicated without entailing much higher costs to the ultimate consumer. In some lines, he said, manufactures from Czechoslovakia, as well as from the U.S.A., and from other countries, were being substituted, but for the present Czechoslovakian factories operating to capacity ouput cannot produce enough to replace entirely German manufactures.
DISPOSING OF STOCKS
“In the meantime”, Mr. Straus said, “we are trying to sell what German merchandise we have. To do this we must treat it much the same as goods from other countries. All imports are marked with a stamp of the country of origin as required by law. We have instructed our salespeople to call attention to the fact of German origin before purchase is consummated. We have received complaints from a number of our German customers regarding our distinction of German goods from the rest. Likewise, we have received complaints in gradually diminishing numbers from Jewish customers against our handling German goods at all.”
“Our present policy with regard to German goods will remain in effect until Americans again show themselves willing to buy German made merchandise”, Mr. Straus concluded.
Mr. Straus emphasized the fact that Macy’s handling of German goods is a reflection of the dwindling of popular demand for manufactures from New Germany. The continued diminution of this demand, reflected in the downward course of orders of German goods, he interpreted as the continuation of the boycott by the consumers.
Mr. Straus’s interview followed an investigation of the sale of German goods in this city undertaken by a Jewish Daily Bulletin reporter after numerous complamts had been received by the newspaper that department stores were displaying and selling German-made products.
The investigator found that in Macy’s chinaware department, German manufactures were displayed quite as prominently as those from other countries. Sets of German china were displayed on shelves where they could be seen to best advantage by customers. Their only identification as being of German make was the usual label printed in small letters on the back of each piece, “Made In Germany.”
The saleslady at the perfume counter in Macy’s described “Auf Wiederschen” perfume as being an excellent brand. As far as one might judge from her description of the article, German perfumes had not been boycotted or discriminated against in Macy’s.
Women’s fabrie gloves made in Germany were displayed at Macy’s glove counter, and their quality was described in highly favorable terms. No mention of the boycott was made by the salesgirl, however. The German products appeared to be of larger stock than those made in other countries.
While salespeople in Macy’s toy department said that no German toys had been bought recently, they declared that they had for sale many articles of German make. The supply of German toys had not been dissipated by the Christmas sales.
A number of cheap German cameras were on display on Macy’s counters in the kodak department. They sold German film and higher-priced German cameras.
The children’s stocking department and glassware department carried German goods.
During the entire excursion through Macy’s department store, salespeople had not once mentioned the anti-German boycott.
Macy’s department store and its president became the object of an attack by Samuel Untermyer, president of the American League for the Defense of Jewish Rights, in an advertisement which the daily papers refused to publish a few months ago. He declared that non-Jewish department stores were observing the boycott to a greater extent than Macy’s, inasmuch as they no longer maintained agencies in Germany for the purchase of goods there, and that they were discontinuing the purchase of goods in Germany.
Untermyer also charged that Macy’s had been taking advantage of cheap block marks in their purchase of German goods and that many of the German products handled by Macy’s could be obtained from other countries. He urged that Macy’s take the lead in withdrawing patronage from Germany and expressed the conviction that other department stores would follow the example.