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September 21, 2005

Marshall Field's: Rage, Rage Against the Dying of the Brand

Macy's LogoToday we mourn the final passing of a great brand. For some, it only died today. Yet others, myself included, have missed it for a very long time. We have missed its quintessential sense of style, its reassuring nearness and its unerring ability to make us feel like someone special. and its predecessor, Dayton Hudson belong to now, not just in financial terms, but in name as well. Frankly, I preferred it when they belonged to me.

I have emotionally bonded with Dayton's for almost 30 years, since the day in 1978 when they gave me my very first credit card. I loved them for their liberal return policy, their Daisy Sales, their Santa Bears, their Christmas memories. But most of all, and more than love, I trusted them. Which speaks volumes for Dayton's since what is, after all, a brand, but a promise?

Dayton's BuildingWhen Dayton Hudson bought the likewise Midwestern Marshall Field's a few years ago, the brand changed, but it did not die. The Dayton's name morphed to Marshall Field's with its fancy Frango mints, Field Days and Field Gear. The return policy tightened, but the sale days flourished, and some sense of regional, if not local, presence was retained.

Marshall FieldsToday, however, we lay both Dayton's and Marshall Field's to their final rest. They have been replaced by an East Coast name and logo. They have been replaced by a brand we barely know. A brand that does not share our Midwestern values. A brand that will not even allow its employees to greet us with "Merry Christmas."

I tell myself this really hasn't happened and I realize I'm embracing the first of five stages of grief: denial. Denial will soon be followed by anger, bargaining, depression, and, finally, acceptance. My recovery will take a very long time.

Posted by Diane Prange at September 21, 2005 4:33 PM
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8 Comments

I'm so incensed with Federated! What they are doing is nothing short of cultural genocide. Marshall Fileds isn't just a store or an architectural artifact - the Marshall Fields NAME is a "living" legacy of the City of Chicago that is under assasination. Marshall Fields is a part of what makes Chicago "Chicago." Without Marshall Fields, intact, Chicago could be "Anyplace USA." Can you image changing the name of the Eiffel Tower to the Trump Tower Paris? Would Parisians go for it? It's that rediculous! Yes the Eiffel Tower would still be there, but it would evolve from a cultural icon into a living joke. People would never look at it the same way again. By changing the Marshall Fields name to Macys the people of Chicago will never look at the State Street flagship the same way again either - it will be a joke.

I've interviewed people from all over about this. Most people from New York that I've interviewed aren't sympathetic to whats happening. Maybe they want Macy's to dominate American retailing because the Macy's name is nostaligic to them. Maybe some New Yorkers are bitter about loosing their landmark [towers] so they might not be so sympathetic about Chicagoans loosing thier most important cultural landmark. Still others may see Marshall Fields as a "commercial" entity rather than a cultural icon, and have no sympathy for this reason.

Caddy as it may seem to outsiders the Marshall Fields NAME represents many things to me and other Chicagoans: it represents the man [Marshall Field] who along with Montgomery Ward [another recent death] fought FOR the people of Chicago, and AGAINST developers, to preserve the beautiful Chicago lakefront for the people of Chicago for all time. Had Marshall Field not been so insistent the Chicago lakefront would be owned by private developers and NOT the people of Chicago. How many civic leaders would do that kind of thing today?

The NAME Marshall Field represents a man who also worked hard to help rebuild Chicago after the Chicago fire - but this time as a world class city ("Paris on the Prairie" as it was known). The Field NAME also represents a family who gave us one of the greatest museum campuses in the world. To many Chicagoans Marshall Fields represents home, something familiar and comforting in a hostile world. To Chicagoans, the name Marshall Field represents a man and a family that fought to protect Chicago AND give Chicagoans many of the things that they have to enjoy today. Transplants to Chicago may not know why Chicago has such a beautiful waterfront, they may not know why the city is so civically wonderful. Less educated Chicagoans probably just take for granted that these things just exist and have no idea why. Marshall Field worked HARD for the people of Chicago, now the people of Chicago need to work hard to fight and save the legacy that fought so hard give Chicagoans the things they enjoy today.

Until now the Macy's name meant nothing to Chicagoans other than a parade on Thanksgiving Day - now it represents a hostile imposition on thier city. Macy's Chicago will probably be a mediocre success. When they change the name on the State Street store curious looky-loos, will probably be there and it will LOOK like a big success to Federated but over time Macy's will see a backlash and the State Street store will suffer. When [gulp] Macy's State Street fails, I wouldn't be surprised if Federated sold the State Street property to developers to make it into condominiums and a food court [when Macy's bought Bullock's Downtown Los Angeles the landmark was sold off and converted into a parking garage!!]. Federated NEVER promised to preserve this cultural legacy as a department store - which was the world's first established 140 years ago.

I am a bit scared of what will happen to MF - especially the downtown store. I live downstate in Peoria and every Thanksgiving we make the trek up to Chicago and spend hours shopping and eating at Fields. I am not from Chicago and I didn't know the whole history of Mr. Fields and that seems to make it even worse. I have been to a few Macys and they are at the level of JC Penneys and there's nothing wrong with that but MF is so classy and special it seems so horrible to turn it into a Macys. I also think it's insulting almost because Macys is from NY. Chicago holds its own with NY because it has its own special icons and traditions. It doesn't try to be like NY and it is just as good IMHO. Having its local flag ship store turned into a NY knock off makes me want to cry.

Please sign the petition at www.keepitfields.org, and spread the word. With enough signatures (currently 35,000), hopefully this travesty can be stopped.

I am a native of Chicago and now live in Florida. I grew up shopping at Marshall Field's with my mom. Every time I am in Chicago, I always make a point to shop there. However, when I am in New York or Florida, I do not make a point to go to Macy's. WHY? The same reason I do not shop at WalMart. THEY ARE EVERYWHERE!!! I will not shop at Macy's Chicago. The name change would be a very sad day for the city of Chicago and the midwest. How exciting will this be? NOT AT ALL! Please do not change the name, BUT keep the tradition instead.

The same thing is happening to Kaufmanns and all of the other May Company brands. I remember the good old days. Kaufmanns gave me my first credit card and my first job. Ill be sad to see it go.

Lapel Stickers that say "Keep It Marshall Field's" are available FREE OF CHARGE by writing bgwinnett@hotmail.com. Wear them when you shop at Marshall Field's to let Federated know what you think. The Chicago Tribune observed just last week that this issue does not seem to be blowing over. Midwesterners love Marshall Field's. They don't love Macy's. It's a matter of ensuring that Federated understands that.

I was born in Chicago and grew up in Park Ridge, a suburb. My fondest memories are shopping with my mother at Marshall Field's State Street store, and having lunch in the Walnut Room or one of the other restaurants. I remember the Christmas tree that originally was nine floors high and then was reduced to three stories later on. As a child I loved to see the Christmas scenes in the windows all around the block. Before I got married I invited my bridesmaids to a luncheon party at the Walnut Room. I have traveled all over this country and now live in San Diego, but I have never shopped at any department store like Marshall Field's. It is truly the greatest and will live always in my memory. Please keep the name and the Marshall Field traditions.

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