For nearly 60 years, the billboard adjacent to the Macy’s flagship on 34th Street in New York City has advertised the department store as “The World’s Largest Store.”
Macy’s, however, does not own the space — and now it is suing its landlord, The Kaufman Organization, to block an Amazon billboard from taking over the coveted (and, Macy’s says, protected) real estate.
According to a lawsuit filed on Friday in New York County Supreme Court, Macy’s lawyers approached Kaufman in May to begin negotiations for renewing the 10-year lease, which was set to expire on Aug. 31. On that call, Macy’s alleges, the landlord said it was in talks with a “prominent online retailer” about taking over the billboard space. “There was little doubt that [the Kaufman representative] was talking about Amazon on the call,” the suit reads.
Macy’s argues that such a deal would violate the terms of the original agreement it struck with Kaufman in 1963, which included a permanent restriction on advertisements from competitors that “refer directly or indirectly to any establishment selling at retail or directly to any customer.” While Kaufman has not yet responded to the suit, Macy’s cites an August email from a Kaufman representative arguing that the landlord has “the right to license the sign space to any off-site advertisers” without restrictions and that it “will proceed with alternative advertisers.”
The e-commerce behemoth is not named as a defendant in the suit, but Macy’s states that if it or another competitor were to take over the billboard, “the negative impact on Macy’s would be immeasurable.”
Millions of New Yorkers and tourists walk by the Herald Square signage every year, and it is on prominent view during spectacles such as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which drew 20.7 million television viewers last year despite the absence of crowds.