Federated May Keep Field’s Name on State Street

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(Photo: Marshall Field’s State Street Christmas hordes. Credit: Looper).

(Update 1/30/06: Federated rebuts Crain’s claims in today’s Sun-Times).

Yours Truly just tipped Gapers Block and the rest of the local blogosphere to the unreported story of the weekend…

First the Sox win the World Series, and now this. According to a Crain’s Chicago Business web article posted Friday, Federated Department Stores, Inc. is having “second thoughts” about erasing the Marshall Field’s monicker from State Street. Why? Strong holiday-season sales at the Loop flagship store during what was supposed to be the final year of a century-old local tradition. Look out your windows, friends. Happy, Field’s green colored pigs are flying out there.

According to an unidentified Federated spokesperson quoted in Crain’s, they are now “looking for ways to continue the Marshall Field’s name and keep the name alive.” This may mean that the Field’s name, while still likely to be replaced by the Macy’s nameplate at Field’s mall stores, will, finally, be retained at 111 North State.

Remember back in September when Federated CEO Terry “The Hammer” Lundgren sucker-punched Chicago with the news that the Field’s nameplate was toast? (CHICAGO CARLESS does). If you do, you’ll likely also recall reading over and over in the local media how no one cared about Field’s anymore, how the nameplate had no pulling power left, and how Chicagoans and Chicagolanders would simply flock to Macy’s out of rote or recognition of the better quality of service associated with the heavily New York-identified nameplate.

We, of course, all warned Terry that Chicagoans were a different breed, carrying an almost two-century old chip on their shoulders where Hogtown vs. Gotham rivalry is concerned. He p’shawed us all, showed up in town for an hour to tell Mayor Daley of Federated’s Chicago history-shattering decision, and went on his merry way.

And then, apparently, the entire Field’s chain experienced a significant increase in final-Field’s holiday sales, with the State Street posting an increase 33% higher than the mall stores. This was enough to get Terry to travel in from the Midwestern hinterland to visit the State Street flagship in December, during the month-long shopping rush from hell (as anyone who lives along State Street will tell you, if they haven’t already blocked out the pedestrian horror of it all). Lundy was, finally, impressed by what Chicagoans had been saying all along. We don’t care how much the service stinks (and we know it does), we love our store.

And if the Field’s monicker is retained, well, it turns out that would be about as easy said as done. Because the Macy’s flagship stores in Herald (NYC) and Union (San Francisco) Squares have…(are you ready for it?)…their own separate marketing, merchandising, and vendor arrangements. They are, indeed, operated like separate stores. As a third Macy’s flagship, the State Street store would be similarly independently run. Perhaps by not initially sharing this fact with Chicago, Lundy was relying on it as Federated’s backup plan if Chicago proved itself true to its sentimental word about the local nameplate–as has apparently come to pass.

Three thoughts come to mind out of all of this. In order, they are:

1. Woo-hoo!!!

2. Federated could have saved us all a lot of trouble if they had just taken Chicagoans seriously in the first place.

3. Whatever you call the store, fix the service. It really does stink.

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