Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Riled brides

Items on gift lists dropped in Field's-Macy's transition

Greta Guest
Detroit Free Press

DETROIT -- Marshall Field's conversion to Macy's has gotten bumpy for some brides-to-be.

A number of brides who have registered at the department store for their gifts have found the items discontinued. And some who registered again with new product selections found those items discontinued, too.

Laurin Gracey, 24, a real estate agent from Farmington Hills, said she was driven to register at Target after being frustrated twice in her attempts to select items at Marshall Field's that would be in stock for her Oct. 14 wedding to Thomas Parker, 27, of Detroit.

Gracey said she registered in March and received an e-mail from Marshall Field's telling her to check the registry for discontinued items. Since most of her items were discontinued, Gracey and Parker registered a second time but items were discontinued again.

"It is just not worth all the stress," Gracey said.

Some Marshall Field's merchandise is being phased out by Federated Department Stores in preparation for the September changeover to Macy's. It is just one of many changes expected in the coming months as Federated converts the 62 stores mostly clustered in Detroit, Chicago and Minneapolis.

It was unclear Tuesday how many brides were affected or became so frustrated with the process of multiple registering appointments at Marshall Field's that they decided to go elsewhere like Gracey.

Gracey alone walked away from a list worth more than $4,000 in sales to Marshall Field's.

Jennifer McNamara, spokeswoman for Minneapolis-based Marshall Field's, said she wasn't sure how many items were discontinued or the number of brides affected. The company began notifying brides of the potential for discontinued items in March and "takes their feedback very seriously," she said.

She said some of the merchandise being phased out is part of the normal process the store goes through to update its assortments. The retailer is recommending that brides do not register for Field's private-label merchandise such as Field Gear because that will be gone by September.

The store has registered 100,000 couples since 2000, McNamara said Tuesday.

"The gift registry has been an important hallmark of Marshall Field's and will be an important part of Macy's," she said. "We have a long tradition of that and want to continue having that strong emotional connection with our customers."

Marshall Field's was the first department store to offer a gift registry in the 1890s and was the first to computerize it in 1985, the company said. Now, the $19-billion registry industry is more competitive with specialty retailers such as Crate & Barrel, Williams-Sonoma and Home Depot taking more business from department stores.

Still, the registry has always been a significant part of Marshall Field's business and angering brides is the last thing the retailer can afford, said Carol Dowling, co-owner of Bellocchio, an upscale resale shop in Royal Oak. Dowling is a former vice president of stores for Hudson's, which became Marshall Field's.

"Your wedding is such an emotional time, you don't want to have to deal with this. There are too many choices out there to make errors," Dowling said.

Retailers see value beyond the registry, where most goods are sold at full retail price. It is often the first step to building a lifelong relationship with customers, she said.

While Macy's and Marshall Field's, both middle-market department stores, carry much of the same merchandise, in some cases they do not.The registry problems primarily affect brides whose wedding dates are before the 62 Marshall Field's stores change to Macy's. And the registry will change to Macy's sooner, according to the Web site, on July 30. Then, brides will register directly with Macy's.

While Marshall Field's put together a list of registry items that are sold by both Macy's and Marshall Field's and are considered safe items to register for, some brides have not found that to be the case., a popular bridal Web site, is rife with chatter about how Marshall Field's has become a hassle for brides. One bride said that half of her items were put on clearance: "All my bedding and dinnerware is gone! I am thinking about canceling my registry there altogether!"

Stephanie Hoff, senior retail analyst with investment firm Edward Jones in St. Louis, said that Federated Department Stores already figured into its financial projections some lost sales at the stores that will change to the Macy's nameplate. But she doubts that the business would be lost for good.

"The flip side is if Federated can do a good job with the rebranding effort and can give consumers a good reason to shop at Macy's, over time any ill feelings people have will probably subside."


  1. Small, local bridal registry businesses take better care of brides and grooms. I offer free gift wrap and delivery in many cases, too. Check

  2. Good luck with the bridal registry, Beverley.