Let’s just take a moment to gaze at that glorious typeface. It makes me so happy.
Green is the color of money, luck, earthiness, health, and nature. It makes me wonder what bounty lingers behind the concrete facade of this, the most prevalent and important of Spanish department stores? (Quickly, El Corte Inglés is the main department store in Spain and well, I find myself there quite a bit. The end.)
So it deserves an ode. That dignified name demands it: The English Court! An ode to department stores and their elephantine yet historically game-changing ways, their shiny and chrome yet intoxicating perfume and jewelry counters, and their definite promise of satisfaction but disorienting path to obtain it.
From Dillard’s to Hecht’s, from Wanamaker’s to Macy’s, department stores have ushered my sister and I through every awful back-to-school, Christmas, and swimsuit shopping season, but I love them. I love their breathtaking selection of pantyhose, their hefty, manual credit card machines (in days of yore), the enormous registers and particle board cash wraps, the dressing rooms with burgundy curtains and off-gassing, beige carpets, and the ever present ladies shuffling around with their name tags, clicking pens, and spiral keychains wrapped around their biceps.
We can talk about merchandise assortment, price point, and positioning, but I think the defining detail of a real department store is the presence of an escalator. You can’t have a department store without one and the experience is just not complete if you don’t have a mini panic attack in your stifling, puffy coat, carrying your bundles, dying for water, whilst stepping precariously onto the people mover. It’s the same everywhere, I swear it. Preferably, there are two sets of them to keep things exciting.
Fortunately, at El Corte Inglés near Callao, if you get through all the floors with your bundles, there’s something special waiting for you at the top. This isn’t a food blog, but man, the Spanish sure know how to do a food court. A nice way to shop.
Let’s regroup. This place has everything. You can get shoes and shirts but also purchase insurance, plan your vacation, get a spa treatment, go to the grocery store and the pharmacy, and play the lottery!
They even cater to plus sizes and first communion.
There’s a Corte Inglés for every market too: books, housewares, furniture, electronic equipment, home improvement. It reminds me of Harrod’s (another green logo) tagline: “All Things for All People, Everywhere.”
So the flagship, fancy store is at Calle de Raimundo Fernández Villaverde. Clearly, they cater to tourists because the signage is multilingual and all the normal luxury brands are represented. I don’t normally poke around in these parts but the lady at the Chanel counter was more than happy to give me a free sample of Bel Respiro. (I know, I know. It’s French.)
Finally, they’re celebrating their 75th Anniversary. They designed a special website so that customers can share stories and memories of shopping there over the decades. Like many apparel brands do, it started as a tailor’s shop and then grew, and adjusted its sails through tumultuous times and changing hemlines. Here we are today. It’s unbelievable to me that there are still a few of these beasts of enterprise that have held on. They technically shouldn’t be here given the ease and efficiency we have with digital and mobile shopping. Maybe people still go because they secretly like the elevators, perfume counters, and piped smooth jazz. I still remember the perfectly coordinated “travel outfit” my mom and I picked out at Dillard’s before we moved to Germany in the 80’s: creased, navy slacks, a light blue cable knit v-neck sweater, and a plaid, button-up shirt with blue and gold accent threads and puff sleeves that brought the ensemble together. I felt ready for the big journey. It was such a big deal to go there, experience that.
You can’t get that on the internet. Not yet anyway.