Customers stream into Macy's flagship store in Herald Square

With 15,000 shoppers storming its front doors on Herald Square at 6 p.m. Thursday, Macy’s got a much-needed “positive” start to its holiday season, in what’s been an otherwise slow fall for business.

“It’s been a challenging third quarter and this November has been the warmest November in 250 years, but last night everybody came out,” Terry Lundgren, Macy’s Inc. chairman and chief executive officer told WWD today. “That kick-started the holiday season.”

Lundgren said the crowd of 15,000 was very similar in size to last year. “I stood at the front door keeping track. It was completely solidly packed with traffic and everyone was really well-behaved. It was a great crowd, a combination of young Millennials, more mature customers and some tourists.”

Lundgren said that after leaving Herald Square, he visited Macy’s stores in Queens and in the Roosevelt Field mall in Garden City, N.Y, where he observed “strong” traffic. “It was very encouraging. Now I am counting  strong traffic today, tomorrow, Sunday and to have a great Cyber Monday. I would say it’s been a very positive start to the holiday season.”

Asked if Black Friday 2015 could be bigger than Black Friday 2014, Lundgren replied, “I don’t know the answer to that question. Right about now, traffic should be building till 4 or 5 today.

So far this year business at Macy’s hasn’t been better than last year, but Lundgren said that with Thursday’s opening, there’s a “clear change” in shopping behavior, fueling some optimism for the rest of the year.

He said Macy’s did “particularly well with Millennials shopping the store, and that activewear, both functional and spectator styles, were strong selling areas. Other categories that did well, Lundgren noted, were handbags, particularly Michael Kors, FitBit, Samsung watches and Charter Club cashmere sweaters, which up until Thursday evening hadn’t been selling.

“The deals are very strong this year, particularly in cold-weather categories,” Lundgren said. “You are going to see a lot of deals in coats and boots. All of us [retailers] have more inventory than we planned to have.”

According to Lundgren, the stretch from its 6 p.m. Thanksgiving Day opening till the midnight closing tonight will be Macy’s biggest volume period of the year, though he declined to project what that amount could be. For the third quarter, Macy’s net sales declined 5.2 percent.

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