Monday, May 01, 2006

Two perspectives on the Marshall Field's desecration

Note from Steve: The first article is the press release, the second is a more honest assesment

Federated Pledges Improvements at Field's

The Associated Press

CHICAGO -- Goodbye to Marshall Field's. Welcome back, Frangos?

The new corporate owner of Chicago's venerable downtown department store removed any lingering doubt Thursday that it will strip the historic name by fall, redubbing it Macy's at State Street. But Federated Department Stores Inc. pledged to honor Marshall Field's traditions and perhaps even sweeten them, citing the hoped-for return of Frango Mint production to the city on a lengthy list of planned changes.

Among the others: new brands, boutiques and shops; refurbishment's to the store's interior and exterior; and a fresh-foods market concept still being developed for the lower level.

Federated is converting all 61 Marshall Field's stores, scattered across eight Midwestern states, to the Macy's nameplate in September. But it's in Chicago, where meeting under the Field's clock and toting green Field's shopping bags have been traditions for generations, that the upcoming move has caused a local uproar.

Top executives of Cincinnati-based Federated, which acquired the Marshall Field's stores with its purchase of May Department Stores last fall, and Macy's North, its new Minneapolis-based division, talked up ambitious plans for the store at a news conference in hope of winning over any unsettled shoppers.

"I'm here to assure you that the traditions will remain and get better," said Macy's North CEO Frank Guzzetta, citing the Great Tree in the Walnut Room for the holidays, the 28 Shop, fashion shows and the year-end window displays, a Chicago fixture since 1897.

Terry Lundgren, Federated's chairman, president and CEO, promised to be as locally responsive as possible, with the added benefit of having Macy's "national powerhouse" organization behind it.

As one of three Macy's flagship stores nationwide, he said, Macy's at State Street will feature the largest and newest assortment of items available as part of the chain's "continual drive for newness."

The Field's name will start vanishing this summer as credit cards, store signs and advertising switch to Macy's. Its legacy ultimately be in the form of commemorative plaques to be placed outside the building at all four corners.

Several shoppers indicated Thursday that while the name change is still disappointing to them, they are getting used to the idea.

"I'm sorry to see the name go, but it hasn't been the old Marshall Field's for years," said Jo Jackson, referring to service and the uniqueness of store items.

Federated and Macy's would likely score bonus points with Chicagoans if they can bring back production of the famous Frango Mints, which were made locally for seven decades before Field's shifted the work to Pennsylvania in 1999, two corporate owners ago.

While making no promises, Lundgren said he'd raised the topic with Mayor Richard M. Daley over dinner Wednesday night and "it's on my list things to get done over time."

State Street makeover

Medill News Service

When Macy's raises its flag on State Street in September, it will unveil fresh amenities and reinvent traditions, but many Chicagoans remain nostalgic for the department store of their childhoods.

"I think it's a sad thing, this will always be Marshall Field's to Chicagoans," said Field's shopper Cissy Greenspan of Buffalo Grove. "A lot of locals think they're messing with history here."

The iconic department store will become Macy's at State Street, one of the brand's three national flagship stores, but will preserve age-old traditions like the Great Tree at Christmas and the high-end 28 Shop, Federated Department Stores Inc. executives said at a press conference Thursday at the State Street store.

"Everyone talks about the memories of Marshall Field's, and I can tell you memories will continue to be made in this building," Frank Guzzetta, Chairman and CEO of Macy's North said.

But Chicago residents and longtime Field's shoppers were not convinced.

"My mother would take me to the see the wonderful Christmas displays, the sounds, the feel -- it's an atmosphere," said Chicago native Sue Winkleman.

"It's like they're stepping down -- they're going from elegant to eh."

The perception that Macy's will have less panache than Field's is exactly what Federated executives want to combat.

"This store will get everything new, everything unique -- everything will get tested in this particular location," Federated CEO Terry Lundgren said, adding, "The line is long for vendors who want to be part of it."

Cincinnati-based Federated acquired Marshall Field's on Aug. 30 as part of its $11.5 billion purchase of May Department Stores of St. Louis.

Retail analyst Kim Picciola at Morningstar Inc. believes strong customer outreach and the right product mix could win over local shoppers.

"They have their work cut out for them to prove to the Field's shopper that this will be a better place for them to shop," she said. "But if they're able to differentiate themselves from the competition, then I think they've positioned the State Street store to succeed."

Among the changes Field's shoppers can expect are the restoration of the 28 Shop entrance at 28 E. Washington St. The store-within-a-store was once an exclusive appointment-only destination featuring upscale designers and haute couture.

The 28 Shop still exists on the store's third floor and features Giorgio Armani, Celine, Ralph Lauren, Black Label and other high-end designers.

Federated plans to reopen the special Washington Street entrance with a doorman, valet parking and private elevator access to the boutique for added customer service.

Some luxury designer shoe lines such as Jimmy Choo and Prada will no longer be carried at Macy's, but other designers including Donna Karan and Robert Clergerie will join the shoe department.

"Yes, some collections change in and out, but that's retail," Andrea Schwartz, a Macy's spokeswoman. She said Macy's will continue to sell most of the high-end brands now at Field's.

The Frango Café, named after the beloved Frango mint which last year celebrated its 75th birthday at Field's, will be remodeled with a viewing kitchen so shoppers can watch the chocolate candies being made.

Ralph Hughes, regional vice president of stores for Macy's North, said Macy's will host the city's first Chicago designer shop. The shop would nurture local talent by providing a venue for designers to showcase their products.

The neoclassical building will get a facelift, including professional cleaning and restoration and the addition of Macy's at State Street awnings and canopies. The historic Marshall Field and Company nameplates will remain on each of the store's four corners with commemorative plaques hung above them.

Jerry Roper, president and CEO of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, said Macy's international name recognition would be a boost for downtown shopping.

"We want tradition preserved but we will also be a part of this nationally, if not internationally," Roper said. "You will see State Street all over the world."

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