Friday, November 09, 2007

Macy's drops efforts to placate Field's die-hards

Macy's has probably realized that they can't get Marshall Field's shoppers to come back so they want to seek out new customers. Perhaps those who aren't familiar with Marshall Field's. Of course this Crain's story does provide one example of a former Field's customer who's a regular at Macy's now. Still this story provides for good fodder for those still upset at the loss of Field's last year.

Somewhere between sliding sales and regular protests outside their downtown Chicago store, Macy's Inc. executives realized they had a problem.

Two years after the company bought May Co. for $11 billion and started replacing homegrown department stores with the Macy's brand, anger from stubborn Chicago shoppers over the loss of the iconic Marshall Field's chain refuses to subside.

Macy's executives have struggled in other cities to reel in customers who miss local department store favorites — including Kaufmann's and Filene's. But nowhere has the task proved more difficult than Chicago.

"There are a lot of people who just can't get over the Marshall Field's name change," said Frank Guzzetta, the former president of Marshall Field's who now is chairman and CEO of Macy's North, one of seven regional divisions. "Those people, no matter how hard we worked at it, have continued to be detractors."

That's why this holiday season, Macy's has all but given up wooing the Field's faithful.

Instead, executives are mounting a full-fledged campaign to bring in new shoppers — especially those who lack a deep-rooted Field's connection — to its flagship State Street store.

The changes include a wine bar in the store's Walnut Room — hallowed ground for generations of Chicagoans who make meals served by tuxedo-clad waiters part of a holiday tradition. There's also free Wi-Fi, the city's only FAO Schwarz toy store and college nights featuring denim fitting clinics — designed to target children, college students and young professionals flocking to new downtown condos.

The efforts all are flanked by a new advertising campaign, dubbed "Take Me To State Street."

"You have to, at some point, stop and say, 'I apologize. I'm sorry you feel that way' and move on," Guzzetta said. "We wanted so hard to not disappoint the old Marshall Field's customer that we put an excess amount of energy on that and not enough on making sure the store was what everyone wanted."

Macy's won't say how much it is investing to turn around its Chicago business, or how much sales have dropped. But Lord and Taylor CEO Jane Elfers says her chain scored a 12-percentage-point bump in sales since the Field's-to-Macy's switch last year.

For Macy's, the stakes couldn't be higher.

"This has to be one of the most critical markets for them to gain acceptance from the shoppers," said Jim Okamura, a senior partner with retail consulting firm J.C. Williams Group. "There's the sheer size of what we've got here, but also it's just such a key proving ground for the Midwest. It has that ripple effect across a pretty broad region of the country."

Executive say they're aiming to double foot traffic in the State Street store over the next three to five years, though they acknowledge holiday sales across Chicago may be flat this year thanks to drooping consumer confidence.

I wonder how they got this former Field's shopper to come back to them...
Marge Chastain, a receptionist who works in downtown Chicago, cut up her green Field's credit card to protest the switch, but has since become a regular. She scours the sale racks looking for deals for her daughters and grandchildren.

"Even though there was the transition, it's still Marshall Field's to me," she said.
I suppose while the resistance from loyal Field's shoppers is more stubborn than for those other regionally iconic stores bought by Macy's mentioned in this article it sure makes sense from a business standpoint to make every effort to succeed in a hostile market. Of course the jury is out as to whether they can succeed or not especially since things could change. Especially if the holiday season proves to be good to Macy's.

BTW, to Ms. Chastain. Yeah the store in downtown Chicago may be a Macy's but it will always be a Marshall Field's to me too.

1 comment:

Cheryl said...

I'll never step foot in that store again. Or any other Macy's.

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