In The Temple of Shoes

Macy's Herald Square

There's no question that women love shoes, and for all sorts of good reasons. They can make an outfit, make a woman four inches taller, or help perfect a walk.

In cowboy boots (happily back this year), it's a strut. In platform heels (never really out), it's a swing. And wearing the black trainers on the market today, it's a jog with the confidence that finally, our shoes look as good as the rest of us does.

No one disputes the importance of shoes, especially women's shoes. And one by one, the big department stores of New York have been acknowledging their importance by dedicating Very Large Areas of Space over to them. Most recently it's Macy's, which upped the ante by opening the largest shoe store department in the world this past August. It's on the second floor of their Herald Square flagship, and stocks more than a quarter of a million styles. That's right, a quarter of a million styles. For women only. (Sorry, guys. You might spend a chunk on each pair of shoes you own, but we have you beat in quantity.)

So what's accounts for the growth of women's shoes? It's simple: sales per square foot and profit margins on shoes are among the highest in the fashion industry. Margins hover around 50%. And how much is this industry worth? Almost $22 billion a year, as reported last June for the previous 12 months.

We can thank the girls of Sex & the City for bringing footwear to centre stage. Largely because of their characters' shoe fetishes, Christian Louboutin, Manolo Blahnik and Jimmy Choo became household names. Christian Louboutin's red soles can be identified from 15 metres away, and are now status symbols the world over. This fall, they were seen on the bottom of shoes made by Guess, which makes us wonder how long those will stay on the market. (Interestingly, Louboutin's trademark case came about because of fellow luxury designer YSL's all-red shoes, which included red soles. The court has ruled that in the case of all-red shoes, a red sole is permissible, but not in the case of a red sole appearing on another colour shoe.)

But back to Macy's shoe temple. Suffice to say, it's not the place to zip in and zip out over your lunch hour to make a quick purchase to complete your outfit for Saturday's date. Security is tight, and tourists have added it to their list of must-see destinations. But if you've got time, or you want to impress your shoe-loving cousin from Seattle, you'll probably find what you're looking for.

And for the rest of us, located too far away for a weekend visit, at least there's international shipping.