Too Late to Save Macy’s State Street?

(Photo: The more things change at Macy’s State Street, the more they suck the same.)

I’ve said it, and said it and I’ve said it again: Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren will go to the grave–and take the former Marshall Fields with him–before he and his team get a clue about how to treat Chicagoans.

Shame on anyone with a 606xx ZIP Code for thinking that the carbetbagging New York nameplate and national-presence pretender had finally gotten it last fall when Macy’s finally announced the rollout of a Chicago-centric advertising campaign centering on the State Street store. (You know, the campaign Chicagoans have been calling for since 2005?)

Nice idea, but after a second consecutive Christmas with declining sales, it may be too late to save the old Marshall Fields flagship. And this time, the post-season job cuts are affecting Macy’s Chicago area stores, including State Street.

First to go: all food-service workers at every Macy’s in the Chicago area except for State Street. And not with advance warning, mind you. With an HR person standing in front of each food court last Friday morning telling arriving workers that they were instantly out of a job.

Great idea, Terry. Dump those food counters that give shoppers an in-store refreshment break, keeping ‘em happily captured behind the Macy’s nameplate and readying them up for a second round of shopping post-lunch shopping. Why retain any practical strategy that gives shoppers a reason not to leave a Macy’s while they’re still in one?

But if you think the post-Christmas treatment of Macy’s local food-service workers was Grinchy, keep reading. According to the Sun-Times, Macy’s has also unceremoniously dumped Amy Meadows. Don’t know her name, dear Chicagoan? Trust me, you’ve seen her work.

She’s dressed the State Street Christmas windows and decorated the Great Tree for the past 25 years.

According to a Macy’s spokesperson, “We have a talented visual team who will decorate our store windows and continue the time-honored tradition.” Give me a Goddamn break.

Lundgren and his team at long last say they’ll respect Chicago sensibilities, and then turn around and piss on Chicago tradition once again and act like it doesn’t matter. I’ve been optimistic about the State Street store’s chances for ore than a year. I give up. I don’t have the energy to bitch about the stupidity anymore, I think it speaks for itself.

I’m tired of making excuses. There aren’t any (except for the supposition that Lundgren and his time are on crack).

I was right in August 2006 when I waked through Macy’s State Street and cried wolf to citywide media on those initial, boneheaded store maps that listed the wrong names of the streets surrounding the store. At that time I said:

“When you’re under intense scrutiny from an entire city of your potential customers. many of whom have already labeled you callous and capricious when it comes to local culture, it’s really best to dot your ‘is and cross your ‘t’s. Or at least to show that you know where the store you bought is actually located.”

It is equally important to know where their hearts are located, too. In this town, that would be at the State Street store, every Christmas, gaping in colorful windows and up at sparkling trees to see the culmination of years of local tradition.

It is that tradition that soundly got the ax with Meadows’ firing. You cannot value-engineer institutional memory and you cannot replace more than two decades of holiday tradition with a $10-an-hour casual employee given glitter and a glue gun.

With Terry Lundgren remaining at the helm of Macy’s, I don’t see how we have another Christmas on State Street to speak of, friends. The next cuts will be deeper and throughout the Chicago flagship store.

Terry, how ’bout you tell 3 million of your potential customers why proving that you’re right and we’re wrong keeps on helping your bottom line? You made the worst retail blunder of the past 20 years–and of your career–by shoving the Macy’s nameplate down the collective throat of Chicago. Given the colossal stupidity of that mistake, I can’t imagine why the rest of your board has any confidence in you now to fix it.

Memo to Steven Bollenbach, Deirdre Connelly, Mayer Feldberg, Sara Levinson, Joseph Neubauer, Joseph Pichler, Joyce Roche, Karl von der Heyden, Craig Weatherup, and Marna Whittington: if you folks are looking for candidates for your next round of employee cuts, my advice is to look to the head of the board table y’all are seated at, first.

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