It has been a year since Macy's made its Chicago debut, and the department store chain can't seem to shake the image of a New Yorker trampling on the Second City.
Marshall Field's loyalists plan to gather Sunday in front of Macy's on State Street in Chicago to call for the return of the famous moniker, marking the fourth protest organized by the grassroots group Field's Fans Chicago.
"Our goal is to demonstrate that Chicago would like Marshall Field's back not only in name but also in service and quality," said Jim McKay, the group's head and an adjunct associate professor of architecture at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "It's a Chicago icon."
Few thought the uproar over Marshall Field's disappearance would still be going strong one year after Macy's mothballed the name, along with 10 other regional department store brands, in an effort to create a national department store chain.
But corporations frequently underestimate the depth of consumer attachment, said J. Garland Pollard IV, a Sarasota, Fla.-based historic preservationist and writer who tracks defunct brands.
"Companies often don't recognize what they have," Pollard said. "I didn't think a year later it would be this active. I understand the need to brand Macy's, but there are ways to harness that energy and love associated with Field's without sacrificing the corporate national branding goals."
Earlier this month, Pollard asked readers of his Brandland USA blog what department store they missed most. The informal online poll ranked Marshall Field's second after the five-and-dime F.W. Woolworth.
Pollard began watching the Marshall Field's-Macy controversy after profiling the town of Fieldale, Va., where Marshall Field's opened a linens factory in 1918. The town, known for making Fieldcrest towels, is named after Marshall Field's, which paid for roads, stores, a bank and housing for its employees before selling the mill in 1953.
Just how much is the Marshall Field's name worth today?
May Department Stores Co. put a value of $419 million on the Marshall Field's trade names in its 2004 annual report, its last annual public filing before Macy's (then Federated Department Stores Inc.) acquired the St. Louis-based rival for $11 billion in 2005.
Macy's owns the Field's trade names now, and except for reviving the Field Gear brand this fall, has done little with them. Macy's doesn't break out the value of its trade names, according to corporate spokesman Jim Sluzewski.
"The name change was decided two years ago and we stand by that decision," said Jennifer McNamara, spokeswoman for Macy's North division in Minneapolis, operator of the former Field's stores. "We're focusing our efforts on what matters the most to our customers -- the in-store shopping experience."
Meanwhile, Macy's has its own brand issues.
The chain, with headquarters in New York and Cincinnati, has struggled to win over shoppers since converting half of its roughly 800 stores to Macy's inSeptember 2006. Last month, the retailer posted a 77 percent decline in second-quarter profit on a 1.7 percent sales decline.
Anne MacDonald, the chief marketing officer from Citibank that Macy's hired last year to oversee its national brand roll-out, left the retailer in May. Its latest strategy is to burnish the Macy's name by hiring celebrities such as Donald Trump and Jessica Simpson to appear in national TV ads starting this fall.
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