Tuesday, September 20, 2005

No miracle on State Street: Marshall Field's to change to Macy's

Chicago Tribune staff reports

Marshall Field & Co., a name long venerated in the history of Chicago retailing, will disappear in the fall of 2006, to be replaced by Macy's.

All 62 Field's in Illinois and seven other states will be converted to Macy's, according to today's announcement by Federated Department Stores Inc., Field's new owner.

"The business has to grow, and that just hasn't been happening," Terry J. Lundgren, Federated's chairman, president and chief executive, said as he explained the decision to turn Field's into Macy's.

"Clearly this is an emotional day, and it's an emotional decision, and for people who live in Chicago, we have total and complete respect for this brand name of Marshall Field. But you have to grow the business today," Lundgren told CLTV after meeting today with the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board.

The decision to drop the Field's name was made after Federated "carefully researched customer preferences and studied alternatives," Lundgren said in a news release released by Federated this morning.

Lundgren promised Field's traditions and its "outstanding record of community and charitable giving" would continue.

"From a shopping standpoint, customers will have the best of both worlds in major markets like Chicago, Minneapolis and Detroit," Lundgren said. "They will continue to benefit from regional buying that remains attuned to local preferences and lifestyles plus enjoy the distinctive merchandise and shopping experience that's part of the Macy's brand."

The stores will be operated under a Minneapolis-based division, Macy's North, the Cincinnati-based Federated said.

Among the first people in Chicago to learn of the name change was Mayor Richard Daley. The mayor has had several conversations with Lundgren recently before being personally informed by the Federated chairman of the decision this morning, said Daley spokeswoman Jacquelyn Heard.

Daley "was not very thrilled" to hear the news, Heard said. But the promise of no layoffs and the possibility of bringing Frango mint production back to Chicago from Pennsylvania, where it was outsourced in 1999, were "a huge part" of the mayor's becoming amenable to the name change, she said.

Speaking to reporters later in the morning, Daley took a philosophical view of the loss of the Field's name.

"Things change in life," he said. "If you are not willing to accept change, you stay in the past."

The mayor called Federated a "very good corporate citizen." Regarding the State Street store, Federated plans to "reinforce that store," making it even more a "destination" than Field's has been, Daley said.

Federated, parent of Macy's and Bloomingdale's, doubled its size Aug. 30 by completing its $11 billion acquisition of Field's owner, May Department Stores Co.

The acquisition gave rise to immediate misgivings among Chicagoans familiar with Federated's history of changing the names of regional department store chains it acquired to Macy's.

Most other May chains, including Famous-Barr, with seven Illinois stores, are to be renamed Macy's by fall 2006. One exception is Lord & Taylor, which Federated has ruled out changing.

The deal between Federated and May marked the second time in less than two years that Field's has changed hands. In July 2004, May bought Field's from Minneapolis-based Target Corp., which dumped its department store holdings to focus on its more vigorous discount chain.

The Federated-May deal created a $28 billion retailer with about 950 department stores.

Despite changing the name to Macy's, Field's may remain a fixture on State Street for some time to come. Two days after Federated closed its acquisition of May, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks formally recommended that the City Council bestow landmark status to the retailer's flagship store at State and Washington Streets.

If approved by the City Council, the landmark designation would give the city legal power to restrict building changes, including tinkering with the large nameplates on its exterior.

Preservationists and politicians have said changing the State Street store from Field's to Macy's would strip away a piece of the city's identity. Many also hoped a landmark designation would preserve the name of the State Street shopping icon.

"It's like changing the name of the Eiffel Tower, honestly," Preservation Chicago president Jonathan Fine said earlier this month. "I don't think Chicagoans will ever accept it as a Macy's. To us, that's somebody who sponsors a parade in New York."

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