For persons "of a certain age" , such as myself, it was a wonderful experiance while traveling to visit a retailer one had only heard of. Such was the case when visiting Atlanta and seeing Rich's , or Detroit and entering Hudson's. Cetainly the same for Dayton's in Minneapolis, and definately In Chicago for Marshall Field's abd Carson Pirie Scott. New York of course had many notable retailers or interest and quality, now long gone such as Altman's, and Bonwit Teller.
Now when visit another city there will be just Macy's with about 85% of the same merchandise that one would see in their own area Macy's.
Those of us who are of my age remember the pleasure in bringing home a gift from I Magnin in San Francisco, or from Neiman Marcus when visiting Dallas. Those days are past now.
In fact there is nothing really much out of the ordinary bringing home a gift from Gucci in Rome, Prada in Milan, or Burberry's from London.
So while visiting downtown Chicago to visit Macy's or in other cities ? I DO NOT THINK SO.
It is going to be the "same old, same old, been there done that" very quickly.
Quite honestly I get far more fun visiting my Target 2 miles away to see what fun they have just merchandised at a popular price point.
What is missing NOW from most retailers is *creativity* , and that lack of such has dragged down such stores as the GAP, Banana Republic, Restoration Hardware, and Eddie Bauer.
We are now well into the era of "ho hum merchandising."
I agree with you that Department Stores for the most part are very similar. I was in New York City in January and visited Macy*s, Lord and Taylor, Bloomingdales, Sak's 5th Avenue and Bergdorf-Goodman. Lord and Taylor was somewhat unique and a visit to Bergdorf's is always interesting, but the price range is higher than what the average Department Store shopper is going to spend. Even though Macy*s and Bloomingdales operate under different management, there is a lot of sameness. The weekend before last, I was in downtown San Francisco. The Macy*s store is huge because it includes the old I. Magnin Building as well as the former Macy*s West store. There was absolutely no difference from the Macy*s Harold Square flagship. I also visited Sak's and Nordstrom. The Sak's was actually somewhat unique from Sak's 5th Avenue which means they had considered the difference between New York and California's customer's tastes. Too much of the same old, same old.....