Marshall Field’s Last Christmas

Discussion
Dec 21, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson


The subject of the Marshall Field’s banner being removed and replaced with Macy’s is a sore one for many Chicagoans. Over the years, the hometown department store has developed a special connection for locals and visitors alike.


Many of the department stores’ customers, such as Nancy Doughty, understand this will be their last Christmas with Field’s.


“It’s very bittersweet,” she told the Chicago Tribune. “We were in downtown Chicago in early November and we wandered into the State Street store and it was like, oh my gosh, I can’t believe this. Here were all these trees with ornaments decorated with MF & Co. Maybe it’s kind of a last gasp.”


“It’s very sad to see Marshall Field’s leaving, even though it hasn’t been the same Field’s for the past 10 years,” she said. “There is a real emotional attachment to Marshall Field’s that is pretty unique.”


Moderator’s Comment: How can Federated Department Stores make Macy’s the store that Chicagoans feel is their own, aside from reversing the decision
to replace Marshall Field’s?

George Anderson – Moderator

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23 Comments on "Marshall Field’s Last Christmas"


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Jerry Gelsomino
Guest
15 years 2 months ago
Connecting with the customer is what retail is supposed to be all about today. I supposed Federated may be looking at the loss of the Marshall Field’s nameplate as a reasonable business decision, and for a just cause as Chicagoans did not support the store with enough sales to convince the company to leave the name alone. But if Bloomingdale’s is a strong enough brand to introduce the other regions of the country, wasn’t Marshall Field’s just as strong? It’s too bad that so much of retailing in America is getting homogenized and blended so that there is little uniqueness in shopping across the country. Too many malls are populated today with the same set of stores as one would find in any other district. Pride in one’s city, even bitter rivalries such as between Chicago and New York, and brands equated with that city are being ignored. Federated (Cincinnati Reds) pushing Macy’s (New York Damn Yankees! and Mets) on traditional Marshall Field’s (Cubs and White Sox) shoppers better do something to demonstrate that Chicagoan’s… Read more »
Joseph Peter
Guest
Joseph Peter
15 years 2 months ago

I might add one more thing…..Many Indiana shoppers are not only upset they are losing Marshall Field’s, their retail destination in nearby Chicago, but they are also losing LS Ayres…another mid to upper range department store originally from Indianapolis. I was in Lafayette/Indianapolis this past weekend, and I stopped at the Ayres there and most were upset about losing Ayres….because Macy’s will now be the only place to shop at the mid to upper level in the central Indiana market. They used to have a choice…..now they are forced to go to Macy’s.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
15 years 2 months ago

WOW! Think about the odds: the (apparent) ONLY person in the whole world who wants to rebrand Field’s ends up being the very person in a position to do it!

As a (semi-) neutral West Coast observer, perhaps I can offer a compromise: re-brand all of the Macy’s stores as Field’s; Macy’s may have the parade and the movie, but certainly Field himself was the more famous individual… and the masses from Seattle to Miami (and everywhere in between ) can get involved in the what’s-our-name-this-season? contests.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
15 years 2 months ago
I’ll never forget moving to Chicago in the early 80s and visiting the iconic downtown Marshall Field’s store. We’d previously shopped in Harrod’s in London, and the feeling was similar. We didn’t need to be native Chicagoans to form an emotional bond with Marshall Field’s, just as one doesn’t need to be a Londoner to connect with Harrod’s. There’s a reverence, of a sort, that can’t be manufactured. That said, we tend to move on. How many remember “Fred Rated,” the Los Angeles Federated spokesman voiced by the legendary Shadoe Stevens back in the day? Federated, and the Fred Rated campaign, were all the rage. Yet, they are gone. Macy’s needs to engage, to get in folks’ faces. To Chicagoans, Macy’s is a brash upstart nimrod compared to Marshall Field’s. So, they should play to that preconception and not try to recapture the mystique of MF’s. Of course they need to sponsor the Bulls & Bears, Sox & Cubs, but they also need to operate out of the box with unique and attention-getting promotions that… Read more »
Mark Burr
Guest
15 years 2 months ago
Growing up as a suburban Detroiter, which at one time did qualify as the second largest city, I can imagine it feels much like the punch in the gut that most felt at the loss of Hudson’s in Downtown Detroit. That loss clinched the total collapse of the Downtown area in one turn of the lock. In this case, it’s not a closing, but from the emotion behind it, the same type of mourning is being displayed. I felt the same way. There’s a different kind of attachment with a retailer like MF, much like there was for many with Hudson’s in Michigan. In fact, I still refer to our local Marshall Field’s as Hudson’s. In the case of Hudson’s, there were really a couple of transitions. One was the sale by the family and the new ownership of Dayton-Hudson. The other was the closing of the famous downtown store. The memories that so many had of great shopping trips there were lost to time. It’s an era gone by. Yet, I’d remind us and… Read more »
Suzanne Kraus
Guest
Suzanne Kraus
15 years 2 months ago
First-hand witnessed the drama of the Walnut Room and the last (it’s the 98th year) amazing Christmas Tree. Arrived 2 pm in line. After waiting in the pre-line, got into the pager line and picked it up to be told expect after 4:30. Got into the line for seating and got to our table at 5:45. Food was okay – their signature items still available; the linen white, the service solicitous, the children awed. Multigenerational groups the norm. We shopped on several floors with nostalgia at every turn. A wall of quotes from notables throughout the 20th century about why Marshall Field’s is so great. Giant pictures of past trees in the Walnut Room. Everywhere people talking about why, why, why. Many referenced Macy’s track record with dismantling other beautiful department stores around the country and homogenizing them. In my book, Nordstrom ALWAYS meant Seattle, Harrods/London, Neiman Marcus/Dallas, Macy’s/NYC, Fields/Chicago. The Chicago City Council has made it a landmark – but that only protects the exterior. I hope someone in Federated’s Marketing Dept will be… Read more »
Joseph Peter
Guest
Joseph Peter
15 years 2 months ago
KarenK is correct…. There is a HUGE marketing campaign all over the Field’s stores right now with MF&C original signature logos being promoted all over the store. There are signs EVERYWHERE in the store that say, “There’s no place like Field’s.” Ironically enough, these signs are in the lower case Macy’s san serif font and in the red color that Macy’s uses on their signature signage. I asked one of their executives why such a push for Marshall Field’s, and he told me it was mainly to push out all of the old Marshall Field’s merchandise so that they could put in all of their Macy’s in house brands. So if there is no place like Field’s, many Chicago consumers are saying, “Why the heck are they changing the name if there is no place like Field’s????” It’s an oxymoron to the 10th power! Just think, we are talking about a group of consumers that were upset when Dayton Hudson changed the Field’s bags to beige bags with green ink….many boycotted and the green bags… Read more »
Bob Peterson
Guest
Bob Peterson
15 years 2 months ago

I went into a west suburban Marshall Field’s last week. It certainly appears Macy’s is already destroying the service reputation. You couldn’t find an associate, let alone one to go into the back room and pull a fresh item still in its box. This week, my daughter home from college called several of the Marshall Field’s stores looking for in store status of an item; couldn’t get anyone to answer the phone.

Prior to these experiences, I was fairly certain I would be doing the majority of my shopping at Nordstrom. Now it is assured.

Robert Craycraft
Guest
Robert Craycraft
15 years 2 months ago
The first point that needs to be clarified is that this is NOT a name change. This is a STORE change. Macy’s is not Marshall Field’s. Macy’s is a sign in their Herald Square store that says, “Enjoy the Macy’s Family of Fine Restaurants” and then has a fast food roster of logos that would do a baseball stadium or an interstate exit proud. Marshall Field’s is white linen service in the Walnut Room. Macy’s is ho-hum mid-scale department store merchandise…Marshall Field’s is new fashions from leading designers that can’t be found anywhere else in the Midwest. I never make a trip to Chicago that I don’t go to Marshall Field’s; to suggest the same about Macy’s in New York is just laughable. I don’t see why someone doesn’t get Selfridge’s back to the plate. I understand they tried to buy the State Street store in the original Target Corp-Federated discussions with The Fed only wanting the branch stores. I hate this, possibly because it is the end of the whole era of carriage trade… Read more »
Stefani Bay
Guest
Stefani Bay
15 years 2 months ago

As a Marketing professor in Chicago, Federated’s insistance on changing the Marshall Field’s name to Macy’s has served as an unending source for class discussion. All students are between 18 and 22 years old, and several are from other states and from outside the U.S.; their questionnaires and surveys all indicate that Federated’s decision is flawed and based on inaccurate research results. None can understand what kind of a sample Mr. Lundgren’s people used to conduct their research, as the students’ own surveys have yielded these results: 48% to 66% of subjects stated they will no longer shop at Field’s when the name changes; that the continued and constant branding of Marshall Field’s in recent holiday TV ads and mailings has added been perplexing and insulting; and suggestions from those interviewed included that, at the worst, Federated might consider changing the names of the suburban locations but leaving the State Street store’s name alone.

Mr. Lundgren–wake up!

Jeff Weitzman
Guest
Jeff Weitzman
15 years 2 months ago

I remember when the Bamberger’s in my hometown became a Macy’s. Much gnashing of teeth, but ultimately the shopping continued…

Branding is always more art than science, and I think it would be foolish to think this wasn’t a hotly debated decision with a lot of focus groups, marketers, and accountants weighing in. The hindsight will be 20/20, but I think any decision on naming will have pros and cons. The real key will be the shopping experience. That will be the ultimate determining factor for success.

Karen McNeely
Guest
15 years 2 months ago

No doubt they will lose some significant base business not only at State Street, but in all of the Chicago stores with the possible exception of Water Tower. I’m guessing the effect in Chicago will be less so than it was in Minneapolis when Daytons changed to Field’s. Will the customer “get over it”? No doubt most will, but what retailer wants to take a significant step backwards?

The real question in my mind is why are they rubbing salt in the wound with the “No Place Like Field’s for Christmas” campaign. They are working the brand loyalty only to rip it away. It may maximize sales for this season, but it will also increase the bitterness in the most loyal shoppers going forward. As another said, brand loyalty is all about emotions.

Karen Ribler
Guest
Karen Ribler
15 years 2 months ago

Federated should put their efforts in developing Macy’s as a destination that shoppers look forward to and one that has a place in Chicago. For example, the Nike Store on Michigan Avenue was a go-to store that has a place in Chicago because of its interior design, a value Chicagoans hold dear. Federated needs to place a Macy’s that resonates with the rhythm of Chicago and market it featuring specific attributes.

People gravitate to novelty, to excitement, to stimulation. If Federated concentrates on making the Macy’s experience the best Macy’s experience, focusing on imprinting Macy’s as a good place to shop, Chicagoans will gravitate to this shopping option as an option of choice. It won’t replace the Marshall Field’s in their hearts. Nor should that be the objective.

Joseph Peter
Guest
Joseph Peter
15 years 2 months ago
Being a loyal Field’s shopper and having grown up in Chicagoland, I feel the pain of probably almost 96% of the population. Here are a few examples: -The Chicago Tribune did a survey on whether Chicagoans would still shop at Marshall Field’s when it becomes Macy’s…96% of 24,000 respondents said NO while 600 people said yes they would continue to shop. I am not lying…look through the Tribune archives and you will find the survey! -I am single and 28, so I am in the dating scene…being set up on dates. Many of the women I have met are shop-a-holics, and I always ask them the quesiton: “How do you feel about the Field’s name change?” Out of the six dates I had over the past two months, ALL of the ladies told me they have or are going to cut up their Field’s/Macy’s credit card when the name change happens. Sounds like a great marketing move in my book Federated! -Everyone from the media to the friends that ride the train, to people standing… Read more »
Steve Weiss
Guest
Steve Weiss
15 years 2 months ago

The generation(s) that grew up with Field’s will never entirely forgive or forget. Younger generations will be happy to annoy their elders with pronouncements of “I like the new one better.” It is ultimately the same underwear.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
Guest
15 years 2 months ago

There are many things that Chicagoans associate with Marshall Field’s: Frango Mints, the Christmas display, service, brands, and the name. If and when those things change the people who have been loyal customers or who have identified Marshall Field’s as a Chicago icon, will be displaced. Finding what is important to keep for loyal customers and what can be introduced to appeal to new customers will be a challenging balancing act.

David Mallon
Guest
David Mallon
15 years 2 months ago

Federated has NOT done their homework on this one. Field’s is more than just a brand name in Chicago, it’s integral to the city’s history and identity. The fact that it will be replaced by Macy’s, a brand closely identified with New York, piles insult upon insult. As a Chicagoan, I’ve heard this topic come up a few times, and each time the discussion ends in agreement that we will never set foot in a Macy’s. I predict that in 2 or 3 years this decision will be reversed.

Len Lewis
Guest
Len Lewis
15 years 2 months ago

If people were all that sentimental, they’d still be at their neighborhood stores and not going to Wal-Mart in droves.

Having said that, I see no reason Federated couldn’t have kept the Marshall Field’s banner in Chicago and just upgraded or changed the merchandise mix. Marhsall Field’s needed updating, but removing its identity — one which made it unique among retailers — is a mistake.

Dan Raftery
Guest
15 years 2 months ago

Either the leadership at Federated lives in a vacuum or they have brilliant marketing strategy here. How could anyone in any retail business not be aware of the failure by Safeway and Albertsons to convert Dominick’s and Jewel into more efficient national operations? Sure they left the banners alone, but that didn’t fool shoppers who were quick to abandon their former local favorite as soon as it became obvious that it was no longer a local merchant.

So, taking a huge leap of faith here, if Federated has a strategy that takes advantage of their grocery counterparts’ misfortunes, then we must assume that they have a few more moves up their collective sleeve. Here’s one, which this skeptic expects is not in the playbook: Recant the decision to kill the Field’s name in retailing due to popular demand. But make it conditional upon the division’s resurgence. In other words, tell shoppers “We heard you, now it’s your turn.”

Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 2 months ago

My assumption is that since Federated has experience wiping out traditional beloved local department store names, they’ve got a reasonably budgeted transition plan that includes a grand re-opening and follow-up promotions for a year. I also assume that customer service will be at the usual Federated level, and that the merchandise assortment will not change significantly from what it is now. Most department store assortments are very similar already. Will Clinique sales at Macy’s Chicago be much different from Clinique sales at Marshall Field’s Chicago?

Bob Negen
Guest
Bob Negen
15 years 2 months ago

Brands are built on emotional attachment. And just as people get over the loss of a lover, they will get over the loss of Marshall Field’s. Customers will remember the Field’s store fondly, but if Macy’s provides them with the right merchandise and the right experience they’ll move past the name change and continue to shop there. Love’s that way…

David Mallon
Guest
David Mallon
15 years 2 months ago

To understand this change fully, you must be a student of the history of Chicago. Anyone who commented that losing Field’s is just like the many other urban department stores that have been re-branded just doesn’t know the history of Chicago.

Paul Schultz
Guest
Paul Schultz
14 years 5 months ago

Two things I learned about Chicagoans in the 10 years I’ve lived here…1) They love things uniquely Chicago 2) They hate things New York…Federated broke both rules.

The Marshall Field’s State Street store was a shopping experience, something that people do to define themselves (“I love the Cubs and I shop at Marshall Field’s”). That is gone now and so are the high-end brands (Prada, Armani, etc).

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