Sunday, November 18, 2007

Macy's = The Borg

Today's Chicago Tribune carried an article entitled “Macy's Motivated to Matter” by Sandra M. Jones. The article is basically about the takeover by Macy's of Marshall Field's (by way of May Department Stores) and the three year plan Macy's has to reinvigorate the struggling State Steet flagship store. The article quotes Macy's North Chairman Frank Guzzetta and describes his ideas on the turnaround process he envisions. Now, when Macy's went ahead and cavalierly turned all of the Marshall Field's stores into Macy's stores, they lost me and very many other customers.

This isn't new for Macy's - the idea of just taking regional stores and turning them into Macy's stores. Two of the larger stores that Macy's absorbed into itself besides Marshall Field's were Jordan Marsh and Filene's, both of New England. I know a lot of people in the Boston area that are still more than a little steamed about the loss of these stores. Macy's is like the Borg of Star Trek lore - the great assimilators - and the villain (from the point of view of any non-Borg).

Frankly, the only way I see myself ever walking into a former Marshall Field's store again is for the know-it-alls at Macy's Inc. to bring back not only the name “Marshall Field's” to these stores, but to bring back the product lines that Marshall Field's carried as well. I'm all for change and for re-invention, but the idea of taking a Marshall Field's store and turning it into a Macy's is a GIGANTIC step in the wrong direction.

Here's the quote from the article that just made me ill:
“Now, instead of convincing shoppers that Macy's isn't all that different from the more upmarket Field's, the company is embracing the difference as a way to attract new customers.

“The focus of this building was on the Marshall Field's customer,“ Guzzetta said during an interview as he walked through the State Street store. “There are a lot of people who never shopped in Field's. There was a vision of what Marshall Field's was and they felt it wasn't the store for them.“
Is this guy totally joking? Living in Chicago for the first 28 years of my life, I did not know anybody who didn't shop at Marshall Field's for one thing or another. Seriously. I wasn't rich and neither were my friends. Marshall Field's wasn't like Neiman Marcus or even like Bloomingdale's. It was the store where every couple kept their bridal registry and where you could be close to assured to find a present for everyone on your gift lists. My family and I shopped at that store for as long as I've been alive. My christening dress came from Marshall Field's. My prom dresses came from Marshall Field's. My sister bought her couture wedding gown there at the State Street store and would go to the Walnut Room to eat after every fitting. Countless things were purchased there including the furniture for my loft in Lakeview. The same goes for lots of other folks I know.

Mr. Guzzetta seems to be saying that he wants the old Marshall Field's to attract new customers - the ones who never shopped at Marshall Field's previously. Well, yeah - the old customers of Marshall Field's are very aware of the ridiculous step down in merchandising, quality and service since the transition to Macy's. He's going to have to find some new customers to buy his crap. Most friends of mine in Chicago have moved on to Nordstrom as their preferred store. Only problem is that Nordstrom doesn't carry things like housewares and furniture - but there are other stores for that as well.

The folks at Macy's Inc. didn't take into consideration the fact that there was a lot of value in the green Marshall Field's box. I've lived in the Boston area for a decade and I avoided shopping at Macy's even before I had this beef with them. I used to wait until I flew to Chicago to do my shopping at Marshall Field's and Nordstrom. It's just not a good experience to shop at Macy's. (Thank goodness a Nordstrom finally appeared in Massachusetts!) Marshall Field's was a different story. When you gave somebody a present and it came in a green Marshall Field's box (or the old white ones with the gold scroll logo) it “said” something to that person. It said that you cared and that you went to a great store to find them something. There was something intrinsic to the Marshall Field's name and it counted for a lot with its loyal customers. Macy's? Definitely not the same perception. Definitely not the same store. Definitely not where any of my dollars are going this holiday season or any ordinary day in the foreseeable future.

Addendum: There is a group called that is working to get Marshall Field's back in Chicago. They have been holding rallys and trying hard to get Macy's to listen. Check it out. Also, check out the NPR piece that also ran over the weekend (thanks _ITGuy)


Michael said...

NPR had a story on this today as well. I grew up in Libertyville, but had the chance to live in Chicago for a summer during an internship. Field's was THE place I went for my business wardrobe, not the Magnificent Mile. I like the comparison of Macy's to the Borg... They assimilated Field's and, rather than keeping the well known brand, chose to turn the place into just another Macy's. Bring back Field's!


Carrie Ann said...

Great blog post! I couldn't agree more. Fields had been such a part of my family's history. I am happy to report that I haven't spent a dime at Macy's and never will. All my fun frolicking money goes to Nordstroms. Macy's sucks.

Anonymous said...

Great blog. Marshall Field's really was the ultimate department store. Macy's isn't. Chicago needs Marshall Field's back. Please continue to shop elsewhere until the re-birth of Marshall Field's on State Street.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely despise Macy's. I live in the Houston area and Macy's is no Foley's. The stores are awful now and the merchandise is cheap and overpriced. I predict over half of the old Foley's will be closed within a year (along with the other former May divisions). I shopped Foley's without coupons. I disagree that Macy's problem is coupons. It is much more than that. It is a multitude of problems created by themselves. It is funny that every month that their poor sales figures come out they blame something - the weather, a change in promotions, couponing, customers needing to be re-educated due to their "confusion" over the change in merchandise. This is hysterical considering Macy's competitors have double digit increases (Nordstrom, Saks VonMaur on the high end, Penney's, Kohl's etc on the low end and Dillards in between). Dillard's associates have told me they have seen a marked increase in their business since Foley's demise. The arrogance of Terry Lundgren is appalling. Just admit you made a mistake and bring back the regional identities and traditions as well as the better merchandise. Atlantans are still not over Rich's nor are Floridians over Burdine's, Californians over Bullock's/Bullock's Wilshire, I Magnin, The Broadway, Robinsons, May and the list goes on and on. Folks across the country are sick of the cookie cutter stigma across the board. Everywhere you go are the same banks, department stores, restaurants. As I said before, Macy's downfall is their own fault. They should have been a good merchant and listened to the customer prior to abolishing all the regional nameplates and all the other changes. It is NOT ABOUT COUPONS. Bring back Foley's!!!

By the way, I found a link to an old Foley's commercial that shows how treasured the name was to the Southwest - This commercial is from the mid 80's prior to Foley's expanding into Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona and Louisiana... thus their slogan then of "At the heart of Texas"
Go to Google Video (YouTube) and type in

Anonymous said...

Marshall Field's can return. Your words show that many people all over the country will never set foot in a Macy's. That is especially true in Chicago. The boycott is working!