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

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

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.

In the San Fernando Valley and Ventura County region, which now has six Broadways, the Federated takeover could mean a shift to more high-end retail centers.

The company that owns Fashion Square Sherman Oaks--City Freeholds USA Inc.--said it is negotiating with Federated to convert that upscale mall's Broadway into a Bloomingdale's. "We have very high expectations that that will happen," said Jack F. Ohringer, associate vice president of City Freeholds.

Ohringer said he expects a decision by the end of the year. But the conversion would probably not be completed until next year, he said, because new construction would be required to accommodate Bloomingdale's greater space requirements. A Bloomingdale's would be a big plus for Fashion Square, which was hit hard by the Northridge earthquake in January, 1994, and is still recovering from the sales slump that followed, Ohringer said.

With a Bloomingdale's, Fashion Square would likely attract more posh retailers such as Talbots or even Tiffany, Ohringer said. He believes Bloomingdale's presence would fill a void in the market left by the departure of Saks Fifth Avenue from The Promenade mall in Warner Center. And it could broaden the geographic area from which the Fashion Square attracts its clientele, to as far west as Thousand Oaks and as far east as Pasadena, he said.

Fashion Square's other anchor tenant is Bullock's.

Other malls in the Valley and Ventura County that have Broadways are also awaiting word from Federated on the fate of those stores. They include Topanga Plaza in Canoga Park, Northridge Fashion Center, Glendale Galleria, Panorama Mall in Panorama City and The Oaks in Thousand Oaks.

"We're looking for them to make an announcement after the holidays," said Deborah Blackford, marketing director of the Glendale Galleria. Blackford does not expect Federated to pull out of that mall.

Michael Strle, vice president and group manager of the O'Connor Group, which owns The Promenade in Warner Center, said a Bloomingdale's in Sherman Oaks would be "a real benefit to the East Valley."

Strle said that despite the competition a Fashion Square Bloomingdale's would pose for The Promenade, which also caters to higher-income shoppers, he believes the market is large enough for both malls to flourish. "I still think there's room in the West Valley for Bloomingdale's," he said. "We're hopeful they'll come here someday."

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."

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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."

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.

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.

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