In the September 21 issue of Retail Traffic's weekly e-newsletter, Editor-in-Chief Beth Karlin opined on Federated Department Store's recent decision to discontinue the Marshall Field's name.
“Marshall Field's was so much a part of Chicago's history. Maybe I'm biased because my first job was at a suburban Field's store. That store is now part of Westfield Shoppingtown Old Orchard, or Old Orchard as we knew it growing up and still call it now. So now it will be Macy's at Westfield. I feel old and obsolete.”
On the next two pages we've printed a sampling of the response the story generated. Look for more letters at www.retailtrafficmag.com.
I believe Federated made a difficult but sound business decision in converting the 62 Marshall Field's department stores to the Macy's brand.
To survive as a department store in the face of severe competition from Wal-Mart, Target and Kohl's, who feature low prices, and high-end specialty stores like Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman, Federated has to create one umbrella brand to realize significant efficiencies from centralized buying and a national advertising campaign.
In this fast-moving global economy, retailers have to be nimble, smart and innovative to survive. In the process, an iconic retail brand like Marshall Field's has outlived its franchise.
Alan Siegel, Chairman
Siegel & Gale
New York City
Beth, I think you and other nostalgic Chicagoans will eventually get over the Marshall Field's name dissolution. We Bostonians ultimately survived after Federated bought Jordan Marsh Department Stores years ago and converted them all to Macy's.
What's more perplexing is that in Boston's Downtown Crossing shopping district we have Macy's (the former Jordan Marsh flagship store) and Filene's flagship store directly opposite each other. What is Federated going to do about this? Will we have twin Macy's stores fighting head to head from across the street?
ATS Realty Corporation
I am very sad about the removal of the Field's name. I feel even worse because I do not like Macy's and never shop there. The few times that I have been to a Macy's store, I have found it to be a mess and the merchandise to be of poor quality. My fear is that Federated will take away Marshall Field's quality and replace it with a poor substitute. I often find that retailers from the East or West do not understand the Midwest market and ultimately fail when they expand here.
Susan B. Silver, Executive Vice President
Millennium Properties Inc.
It will be a sad day in Chicago, if they take down the Marshall Field's name.
John A. Thompson, Senior Vice President
The Everest Group/TCN
You can probably think of a hundred other major examples of this kind of re-branding within the past 10 years. People shop for convenience, products and excitement. How many customers shop because of a name rather than a location? All things being equal, for example, merchandise selection, the store that offers good quality, good value and good service will always win regardless of its name.
Stephen H. Kramer
Divaris Real Estate
As a Miami native I was upset by the disappearance of the Burdines name from Miami area malls and Downtown Miami. What Federated has done and will continue to do is to alienate the core customers that regularly shop at local department stores like Marshall Field's and Burdines.
I for one have not spent one penny at Macy's since the disappearance of Burdines. And that's a real shame because my wife and I spent over $10,000 per year at Burdines shopping for everything from linens to Christmas presents. This will be Federated's downfall!
Urbana Realty Advisors, LLC
I was disturbed when Federated renamed Rich's in Atlanta, but they had already killed it with lack of service and poor merchandising, so, I figured it was a service to the memory of Dick Rich to remove the family name from what had become a less than mediocre department store chain.
I have only been in Marshall Field's a few times recently, but, if Federated allows it to deteriorate the way they did Rich's it might be better to remove the name now so that Chicago will have positive memories of the “Store” instead of not giving a damn like Atlanta.
James W. Field, President
Investors Development Services Inc.
Atlanta, and Naples, Fla.
I am a native Chicagoan and also grew up thinking about Marshall Field's Frango Mints (I believe made in Utah now), Marshall Field's Christmas window decorations and the beautiful Christmas tree in the State Street store atrium. It is an outrage to me to force a New York name on a Chicago retailing icon. Would New Yorkers like to have the Macy's store and parade renamed Marshall Field's?
It was special to get a gift in a Field's box. It signified quality and thoughtfulness on the part of the giver. I'm afraid that the bean counters that want to save money on bags, catalogs and advertising are 100 percent wrong on this maneuver. The savings they hope to achieve will be wiped out by lost sales from shoppers going elsewhere. (The Westfield rebranding is also a joke.)
Midland Realty & Development, LLC
Oakbrook Terrace, Il.
Perhaps it is a shame that the Marshall Field's name will be lost forever and Chicago looses a “valued treasure” for history's sake, but the younger generation has no loyalties. The largest volume shopper is not the over-40 generation but the youth and emerging generation who have been disciplined with purchasing online.
I would guess what Federated has in mind, and it's trying to bring the customers back to the bricks-and-mortar where there has been a substantial loss of business.
Store names are not as important as “label” names, so perhaps in the mind of Federated they have a better opportunity to recapture this new market.
Harvey Jacobson, MBA, CEO
Keller Williams Realty/The MarketPlace
I feel the same way the folks at Coca-Cola, Cadillac and Harley-Davidson do: When the reach of a brand goes beyond the product itself to a lifestyle, which is rare, the power generated through loyalty and sales is sometimes never replaceable through another brand. The question then becomes, was the Marshall Field's experience a lifestyle of some degree to many of us?
Grant D. Iverson
Retail Properties Group
Coldwell Banker Commercial NRT
Bonita Springs, Fla.
With the name change, I'll shop at Nordstrom instead (even though I have been a loyal Marshall Field's shopper for years).
Linda Kost, Partner
It's not a good idea when you invent a name to re-brand. Macy's and Bloomingdale are nationally recognized; they have been featured in movies, the Thanksgiving Day Parade, television, fashion magazines, etc. They present a new viewpoint to the consumer and a new stimulus to the shopper (curiosity, not just a sale). This will be good for the mall business overall. Most people won't remember a year after the change anyhow. Good luck to Federated.