Macy’s claims Amazon has concocted a cheeky plan to advertise in front of the department store’s legendary flagship in Herald Square — and it’s pleading with the courts to step in.
The massive, red-and-white star billboard atop Macy’s 120-year-old store at 1313 Broadway could soon turn into an ad for the Seattle-based e-tailing giant, according to a complaint Macy’s filed against billboard owner Kaufman Realty.
Macy’s management said it learned during lease-renewal discussions in May that Kaufman was in talks with a “prominent online retailer” about possibly renting the sign — and that there was “little doubt” at that time that the retailer was Amazon, according to the complaint filed in in State Supreme court in Manhattan last week.
Macy’s owns its flagship building on 34th Street, but Kaufman owns the small carved-out piece of real estate in the southeast corner on which the billboard is situated. A small Sunglass Hut store currently occupies the building’s storefront.
The Macy’s billboard lease with Kaufman expired on Aug. 31. Macy’s claims that its original lease from 1963 prevents a competitor from ever advertising on that space, but Kaufman disagrees, according to the complaint.
On Thursday, a spokesman for Kaufman denied that the company was in talks with Amazon.
“While the restrictive covenant will be up to a judge to make a decision, we want to make it clear that we’ve had no communication or negotiations with Amazon relating to the 1313 Broadway space,” the Kaufman spokesman told The Post in a statement.
Nevertheless, Macy’s is apoplectic, noting that the 2,200 square-foot billboard is “prominently seen and displayed, especially during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade,” and that any advertisement on the billboard by a competitor would cause “immeasurable” harm to Macy’s.
“The damages to Macy’s customer goodwill, image, reputation and brand should a prominent online retailer (especially Amazon) advertise on the billboard are impossible to calculate,” the company said in court papers.
The corner of the Macy’s building is indented, allowing space for the small building on which the billboard is situated. While admitting that the billboard is merely “adjacent” to Macy’s “world famous department store,” the complaint contends that to the “naked eye the billboard is on Macy’s department store.” Kaufman owns both the small building and the billboard, according to the complaint.
“For Amazon this is less about advertising and more about sticking it in Macy’s eye and depriving Macy’s of its marquee signage,” said a real estate source who did not want to speak on the record about either company.
Macy’s is asking the court for injunctive relief to prevent Kaufman from leasing the space to Amazon or any competitor, according to the filing.
“Macy’s continues to have rights relating to advertisements at that location,” company spokesman Orlando Veras told Crain’s. “We expect to realize the benefits of these rights and have asked the court to protect them.”
Known as “The World’s Largest Store” the Herald Square location is preparing to build a giant office tower on top of the building. Macy’s said in May that it will spend $235 million to upgrade the transit infrastructure in the area and to create other public amenities in Herald Square.
Macy’s and Amazon did not immediately respond for comment.
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