All 21 Bullock's to Be Converted to Macy's Stores

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Another venerable name in Southern California retailing--Bullock's--will soon disappear from the scene.

Federated Department Stores confirmed Thursday that it will convert its 21-store Bullock's chain into Macy's stores to place its statewide merchandising operations under one retailing roof.

Although the change will erase the Bullock's marquee 88 years after the first Bullock's department store opened at 7th Street and Broadway in Los Angeles, it will introduce the famed Macy's name to Southern California for the first time.

Federated executives disclosed their plans to The Times one day after the company completed its acquisition of Los Angeles-based Broadway Stores Inc. Federated had already announced that it will drop the Broadway name.

Although it will close an undetermined number of the 82 Broadway stores, Cincinnati-based Federated had been expected to convert most of the remaining Broadways in Southern California into Bullock's and the rest into Bloomingdale's.

However, Federated now plans to convert the Broadway sites to Macy's and Bloomingdale's as part of its national plan to further raise the profile of its three main chains--Macy's, Bloomingdale's and Stern's, a chain of East Coast department stores.

"We think the Bullock's name has value, but--as we grow in California--we can't operate three or four names," said Michael Steinberg, chairman of Macy's West, a division of Federated.

Federated is relying heavily on a store remodeling program to differentiate the new name from the old because Macy's and Bullock's already have the same mix of merchandise.

"The Macy's and Bloomingdale's names are two of Federated's greatest assets," said Ira Kalish, senior economist in the Los Angeles offices of Management Horizons, the retail consulting division of Price Waterhouse.

"Macy's and Bloomingdale's have national reputations but the two have not had a presence in Southern California. It's a sensible decision. Success depends on how well it's executed."

Federated has already begun to prepare customers for the conversion with a new advertising campaign designed to associate the Macy's and Bullock's chains. In the ads, introduced earlier this month, Bullock's is described as "part of the Macy's family."

Industry analysts say the conversion should have little impact on the spending of advertising dollars, with Federated likely to advertise Macy's as frequently as it did Bullock's. They say the converted Macy's stores will be competing directly with the Robinsons-May chain while Bloomingdale's vies for more upscale customers.

"This will help rejuvenate the department store industry in Southern California, which has been in doldrums in recent years," Kalish said. "It will be a market share battle . . . because consumers are not as fashion conscious as they used to be and they're buying more from discount chains."

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All 21 of the Bullock's stores are in Southern California. Macy's 25 California stores are all in the north. Currently, the Macy's closest to Southern California is in Fresno.

Customers at the Bullock's in Citicorp Plaza at 7th and Figueroa streets Downtown liked the sound of the change when asked about it Thursday, and said they have a favorable impression of Macy's.

"When I hear Macy's I think of the Macy's parade," said Jose Gutierrez of Los Angeles. "I think it's a classy and prestigious company."

But the seemingly endless mergers, consolidations and bankruptcies among department store chains have also left customers puzzled. Said shopper Linda Frederickson of Los Angeles, "Boy, there are a lot of changes going on in retailing. I'm not sure why they're doing this."

Sales associate Brian Price, who has worked for Bullock's for 12 years, figured the new identity will be especially helpful at the Downtown location because "we get a lot of tourists Downtown and they know the Macy's name."

But for colleague Loretta Gamboa, a six-year employee, "It's going to be sad. We still have some strong Bullock's customers."

Bullock's 1,100 store employees will not be affected by the name change, the company said. Both Macy's and Bullock's are already managed by the San Francisco-based Macy's West division.

Consumers will see no changes in credit billing. Macy's and Bullock's credit cards are already honored at both chains. Consumers can continue to use valid Bullock's cards after the conversion is complete, executives said.

Federated said it will spend $350 million to remodel Broadway stores. Federated has already begun to execute a $500-million remodeling plan for Bullock's and the 35 Macy's stores in its four-state Macy's West division.

Federated will begin to convert Bullock's stores next April and expects to complete the process by July. The company has no timetable for the Broadway conversions because it has not yet determined which stores to sell.

Broadway Stores operates 52 sites under the Broadway name--41 in California and the rest in Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado. The company also runs 21 Emporium and eight Weinstocks in Northern California and one Weinstocks in Nevada.

As many as six of the Broadway Stores sites will be converted to the Bloomingdale's name, Federated has said. South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa has been competing with Fashion Island in Newport Beach for a Bloomingdale's location. Managers at Fashion Square in Sherman Oaks also hope to get a Bloomingdale's.

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Industry analysts expect Federated to sell 30 to 40 of the 82 stores operated by Broadway Stores--including many in Southern California. Federated is likely to sell poorer performing stores as well as some Broadway sites near existing Federated locations.

Sears and J.C. Penney are among the retailers interested in acquiring some of the sites, industry analysts say.

Federated's plans mark only the latest shuffle of the Broadway, Macy's and Bullock's marquees, which have become remarkably intertwined over the years.

The first Bullock's store was established by Broadway founder John Letts and an employee, John Gillespie Bullock. By 1929, six years after Lett's death, Bullock had financed a company of his own and opened a new building on Wilshire Boulevard just east of Vermont Avenue.

Throughout most of its history, Bullock's was a pioneer and one of the leading upscale retailers in the West. When the first store opened for business in 1907, managers were surprised when finer-quality merchandise sold more rapidly than inexpensive products.

Bullock's managers were innovators. For example, Bullock's was one of the first stores to use color newspaper advertising.

The Bullock's Wilshire store became the high-fashion showcase of West Coast retailing. Described as a cathedral of commerce when it opened, the building--with rose marble interior walls, Moderne-style murals and Art Deco tower--was designed to impress.

Bullock's added to its prestige by acquiring I. Magnin, a renowned women's specialty store, in 1943, and the company was called Bullock's-Magnin when it was acquired by Federated in 1964.

Then R.H. Macy & Co. bought Bullock's in 1988. But Federated regained control of Bullock's when--after a long and sometimes rocky courtship--it acquired R.H. Macy & Co. earlier this year.

Macy had closed the famed Bullock's Wilshire store--now a monument on the National Register of Historic Places--when it phased out the I. Magnin chain in 1993.

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