Friday, October 26, 2007

Macy's Brand Killing Spree

Since Boston's latest home grown department store, Filene's, closed down - a depressing and protracted affair - I've been doing my share of sniffily, nostalgic be-pissing and be-moaning. Oh, everything is becoming that same everywhere you look. Of course, the fact that there was nothing particularly unique about Filene's other than its name, logo, and brand association with Boston/New England. You could pretty much get the same merchandise in any other middle class, middle of the road department store anywhere in the country.

(The one unique aspect of Filene's was its Bargain Basement, which actually hasn't been an official part of Filene's for years, and which lives on, although not in its original location for the time being.)

Similarly, I rued the death of Marshall Field in Chicago.

Not that I did any shopping there, but my mother grew up and Chicago, and when we visited there, my she sometimes took us downtown. I remember going there as a kid - the nearby El, the filigree on the facade, the perfume counters.

I don't know that much about Marshall Field, other than that it had something of an upscale reputation, and carried some high end lines.

Now that Marshall Field is a Macy's, I understand that they've dropped some of those upscale lines, which has resulted in a fall off of business at the flagship store. 

While I can sit here and complain about Macy's, and wonder why they didn't let the local stores keep their local names (Filene's...A Macy's Store; Marshall Field's....A Macy's Store), I also recognize that, from a brand point of view, calling all the stores Macy's makes sense.

It certainly makes sense when it come to advertising - the same ads can run untouched in every city where there's a Macy's. And that has to be pretty much every city in the country.

And it certainly makes sense when it comes to managing customer expectations. Macy's is Macy's is Macy's. Yes, I'm sure that they vary the merchandise based on location - surely they sell more winter coats in Boston and Chicago than in Houston. But customers have a right to walk into a Macy's in wherever-ville and find the Bali bra they're looking for.

No, the Marshall Field customers who wanted the upscale brands won't be back there. They'll be at Nieman's, at Saks, at Nordstrom's. But the core demographic served by Macy's in New York has got to be present in equal proportion in Chicago. And Boston. And Houston. Middle class. Middle of the road. (We have to buy our bras somewhere.)

Yes, it is a loss of identity and interest when iconic stores get gobbled up. I want there to be local color. I don't want everything to be homogenized into one undifferentiated, boring, massive lump.

Still, I think that in the long run, it will turn out that Macy's has done the right thing in enforcing the Macy's brand. Short term losses, short term pain. But the right thing.

And as long as they still run the "Macy's Day Parade" each Thanksgiving, I can forgive them if they've robbed the world of my store (Filene's) and my mother's (Marshall Field).


Meanwhile, I haven't checked it out, but someone told me that Marshall Field fans in Chicago have been picketing to restore their store's good name. Shopadarity Forever!


John said...

I haven't heard too much grumbling about Foley's here in Texas becoming Macy's. But it wasn't quite a landmark here. I wonder, for example, if people in DC are still calling the Hecht's building downtown the Hecht's building. (Probably.)

Anonymous said...

I disagree with the logic of Federated rebranding all of their mid-price stores Macy's. Doing so threw out a century of local-market good will in markets like Chicago. It would have made more sense to run the same advertisements in every market ending with graphics, voiceover, etc. stating "Marshall Field's, part of the Macy's family" or "The Bon Marche, part of the Macy's family". Stage stores does this with their tv advertisements, where they run the same ad in different markets only changing the voiceover and graphics for "Palais Royal", "Stage", or "Bealls" depending on the market.

Anonymous said...

I personally wish that Macy's kept the Filene's brand of clothes in Massachusetts. Macy's has horrible/ugly clothes & shoes. The foot traffic in the Macy's in Taunton Mass has fallen off. I personally do not understand the need to have freakin' Macy's stores all over the damn country ! I have not been impressed with their inventory and I never will ! Give me Filene's ANY day. Macy's inventory doesn't even compare to the old Jordan Marsh stores either. Enough said.

Anonymous said...

I'm truly grateful that Macy's merchandise doesn't compare with that of Jordan Marsh! Eeeeeck it was such crap.