Posted on 20 Comments

Marshall Field’s

You will recall that last year, Federated Department Stores, now Macy’s, changed the name of Marshall Field’s to Macy’s. Now that flagship State Street store is well on it’s way to failing. It wouldn’t surprise me if someone was trying to buy it from them right now to start it anew. When history examines this, it will see lessons of branding and hospitality.

According to the Chicago Tribune, a press conference after its (Macy’s) annual meeting here Friday, Federated’s chief financial officer, Karen Hoguet, said former Field’s stores are performing no worse or better than the roughly 400 regional department stores Federated acquired from St. Louis-based May Department Stores Co. in 2005 and converted to Macy’s. But there is an exception: the Chicago store on State Street. The landmark store, long a tourist destination, is “doing badly,” Hoguet said, without providing specific performance data.

200px-Marshall_Field's_logo.svgAfter listening to Danny Meyer yesterday (see post below) I can’t help but noticing this wasn’t about a store, it was about hospitality, word of mouth and networking and the way people felt during that customer experience. A recent post on Marshall Field’s – message board (which is amazingly still getting strong traffic – you may recall I stated I thought this issue had blogsphere legs back in September) says it best:

“I miss shopping in Marshall Field’s because Field’s IS Chicago. For me shopping at Field’s was an adventure because Field’s was more than a store…it was an institution which made people feel special just being there amongst the special merchandise that only Field’s could offer and the sales people made even the transactions memorable because of the way they wrapped items, hard and soft, in white tissue paper sealed with a green MF sticker before generously pulling out a large MF forest green shopping bag in which to place my purchases. That was ‘the frosting on the cake’.”

“But you know what I r-e-a-l-l-y notice at commuter train stations, on North Michigan Avenue, on State Street and in the Chicagoland shopping centers, at O’Hare and Midway and at other airports around the country???? I miss seeing people, by the dozens and dozens carrying the distinctive green Marshall Field’s sturdy shopping bags with the handles! The absence is so barrenly striking. You readily KNEW they were either FROM Chicago or had a fun shopping trip as a tourist and were going back home. You just do not find people carrying macy’s plastic sacks anywhere it seems, she added. Why should they?! Macy’s is everywhere, and therefore not special at all. It is all so sad.”

Do you hear this Mr. Lundgren?

Another reader posted in reply to the many clearance items at the store now…

Customers want the stores converted back to Marshall Field’s not Marshalls.”

In a related matter, Macy’s has new problems due to accusations of a former LA Times reporter.

20 thoughts on “Marshall Field’s

  1. I agree with almost all you say, except that Federated may be already looking to hawk the State Street Store. That store is one of only a small collection of center city type stores which are truly unique, with Philadelphia having a more pure form by the same architect at what was John Wanamaker. (Wanamaker, originally had 9 full block stories above ground and 2 below, has been reduced to less than 3, with the rest converted to offices (when the May company got that location with 5 retail floors they even thought that was too big (as did Macy’s who also wanted it) such that it is a shell of its former glory) My suspicion is that State Street would be reduced in scale LONG before Federated/Macy’s would ever consider letting it go. I also would be hard pressed to find any retailer willing to take that building on as a single store. Marshall Field’s was a great store up until the end, and State Street was certainly a destination tourist location (I always enjoyed shopping there when in Chicago), but a stand alone store of that size and magnitude is not practical in this day and age. Just look what happened to its neighbor Carson’s (although not as great a landmark as Field’s)…offices will come long before Macy’s reliquishes control.

  2. I absolutely agree with you on this one.

    Someone told me I was too nostalgic about Marshall Fields and that this was all about accepting change.

    I’m sorry, but going from Marshall Fields to Macys is at least two levels of quality downward.

  3. They need to bring back Hecht’s too. Maybe even Thalhimer’s.

  4. Marshall Fields was a wonderful shopping experience. The quality of the goods and excellent staff stand out. When you bought something at Marshall Fields it was wonderful.Macy’s doesn’t understand this at all. The merchandise is gone. The staff fired. All the ad’s tell of discount sales. Junk from China sits on the once beautiful fixtures and marble floors. This has to be one of worst moves in American history of retailing.

  5. Not only does Marshall Field’s have to return, but the corporate offices have to return to Chicago. The morons (Dayton Hudson) didn’t help things either

  6. […] was acquired by Federated Department Stores (now Macy’s, Inc). To many Chicagoans’ disappointment, the name of the store was officially changed to “Macy’s on State Street,” the […]

  7. 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 Foley’s department store

  8. I lived in the northeast for the past 50 years, just moving to Chicago in 2006. I didn’t shop Macy’s in the northeast nor will I shop thier stores in the midwest including Bloomingdale’s. Macy’s from my experience has terrible customer service, takes forever to resolve a customer complaint and could care less about loyalty. For the past 20 years while visiting my sister in Chicago I always made a stop at Marshall Field’s on State. I would do my Christmas shopping there. My family in the northeast were very excited when they opened up the green box from Marshall Field’s. They knew the store was very unique and felt special that I thought of them with a gift from Marshall Field’s. Terry Lundgren made a big mistake in changing Marshall Field’s to Macy’s. Given time this will go down in retail history as the biggest blunder of all time. I don’t think Federated, now Macy’s Inc will ever recover.

  9. Im from the Pacific Northwest and over here the Marshall Fields Subsidary was known 1st as The Crescent then Fredrick & Nelson, Which my grandma and my mom worked at. I think Marshall Fields should be brought back, why not carry on the original tradition yeah we have macy’s over here but its still known as the Bon Marche, but its not the same with them selling frango chocoaltes, bring back marshall fields and bring back Frederick & Nelson

  10. dear sir i have a marshal field and company pocket watch on the movement is signed areo watch
    can you tell me anything about this watch
    yours e d jackson

  11. The has a Marshall Field and Co. special exhibit.

    A Field’s Lover.

  12. I totally disagree with anyone who thinks that Marshall Field’s on State Street could not come back under new ownership. The idea that the State street store is “too big” to be operated profitable is a bunch horse dung. Just look at Harrods in London! Mr. Mohamed Al Fayed is doing a fine job of balancing tradition while still keeping in step with the times.

  13. I have the fondest memories of Marshall Fields. It was an annual holiday destination for us. It’s where my parents took us kids to see Santa and read him our list of wishes. It’s where we would sit in the Walnut Room and gaze at the huge tree, and where you could smell the exotic perfumes on the first floor as you watched shoppers bustle by. I remember going to the ice cream shop there, the crystal palace or something, where every ice cream creation was named after a Chicago monument. Every Christmas we would buy Frango mints. It was a ritual, just like chocolate Santas from Fannie May. I loved the Field’s clock and there was something about being on the ground floor and looking out at each of the street entrances which made you feel as though you were in the middle of something important. I’ve been away from Chicago for a long time and I’m so saddened when I hear of yet another bedrock of Chicago history being tossed away. No wonder people don’t wan’t to shop at Macy’s. Duh. Bring back the green bags with the handles and white writing. Bring back Marshall Fields!

  14. i really really miss marshall fields! : (

  15. Great comments! Macy’s will NEVER be accepted by Chicagoans. The boycott is working!

  16. Marshall Fields is a cornerstone of history. Don’t let it slip away if there is any chance at all of bringing it back. Sonetdug……

  17. Marshall Fields was a Chicago institution as much as or more so than any other in the City. To have Macy’s shoved upon us is galling. My family shopped regularly at Fields since the early 1940s and losing Fields is like losing a piece of Chicago. Macy’s was not that impressive in New York– it is unwelcome in Chicago. Bloomingdales and Neimans were welcomed as additions to the City, Macy’s is an interloper who has displaced a member of the Chicago family.

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  19. Thanks for the nice read 🙂

  20. I’m from the Northwest. If we visited Chicago, it was a treat to stop at Marshall Fields. Their reputation was nationwide. People in our part of the country feel sad that the historic Bon Marche stores were all converted to Macys as well. If Macy’s wanted the national name recognition they should have kept the popular regional chains, and added a small Macy’s logo to some signage etc. They could have honored the Macy’s credit card at all stores, yet kept some of the uniqueness of the popular chains that made them great.

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