The Store Formerly Known as Marshall Fields

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Parent company Federated Department Stores reopens Marshall Fields, Filene's and hundreds of other stores under one new name: Macy's. To many in Chicago, home of the landmark Marshall Fields department store, the name change is a blow to civic pride.


It's a little difficult for some Chicagoans to accept: Marshall Fields now has a new name. Today, parent company Federated Department Stores reopens Marshall Fields, Filene's and hundreds of other stores under a different nameplate, Macy's.

NPR's Cheryl Corley reports.

(Soundbite of traffic)

CHERYL CORLEY: I'm standing here on State Street in Chicago. The trademark clocks, the Tiffany ceiling, and the bronze placards which say Marshall Field and Company are still part of the huge retail landmark which has been here since the early 1900s. But the signature green awnings of Marshall Fields are gone now, replaced by black ones that say Macy's on State Street.

Ms. TERRY CARSOS(ph) (Resident): Very sad. Very sad. This is a history right here.

CORLEY: A day before the grand reopening, Terry Carsos stands at a corner of the store, a Marshall Fields bag in her hand. She shopped at Marshall Fields for more than 20 years and isn't sure whether she'll spend money at Macy's.

Ms. CARSOS: There are a lot of people I know that - I have friends that just threw their cards away. They're not going to be shopping at Macy's.

Mr. JIM MCKAY (Blogger): I think a lot of people would probably be a lot more accepting if they would have said, Marshall Fields, a Macy's store.

Ms. CARSOS: Right.

Mr. MCKAY: You know, like Target, Super Target

Ms. CARSOS: Right.

CORLEY: Jim McKay bought his first suit at Marshall Fields. He's been running a blog about the name change. He says it's all about Chicago pride.

Mr. MCKAY: We're not a fly-over here. This is really a great store, you know. It's still is. There's been changes. It's had different owners. But still, people value the Marshall Fields name and the store - Marshall Fields - and identify it with Chicago.

CORLEY: But parent company Federated Department Stores announced last year that it would drop the Marshall Fields name as part of its national branding strategy. Joel Goldhar, a business professor at Illinois Institute of Technology, says that should have been no surprise.

Professor JOEL GOLDHAR (Illinois Institute of Technology): The name used to mean something. Marshall Fields meant something, like Nordstrom's means something. But clearly over time Marshall Fields as a brand means less, or it means something to fewer people.

CORLEY: Meaning it wasn't profitable enough for Federated to keep the name. In its place comes Macy's; 400 stores across the country, including Kaufman's, Famous-Barr, and others, assume that name today, almost doubling the brand of what Federated is now calling the nation's department store.

Earlier this week, Linda Gresham and a friend were going to shop at Marshall Fields for one last time. Gresham said for many of her out of town friends, shopping at Marshall Fields was always at the top of their to-do list. Even so, she's not bothered by the name change.

Ms. LINDA GRESHAM (Shopper): We're looking for more quality than the name change, if they continue to have the quality merchandize. But if they, you know, waiver from that, then no. So we'll give them a chance.

CORLEY: Others aren't as willing. They're holding a protest rally today at State Street's new Macy's, formerly known as Chicago's landmark Marshall Fields.

Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Chicago.


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