Utahns who are still trying to get used to the name Meier & Frank for what was ZCMI can stop trying to make that mental leap.
They might as well start calling the department stores Macy's, instead.
Macy's will replace locally familiar names including Meier & Frank in Utah, Filene's in New England and Famous-Barr in the Midwest in some 330 stores across the nation under post-merger plans announced Thursday by Federated Department Stores Inc.
Federated also plans to sell 68 stores, including 27 current Macy's, next year because they overlap in markets with the company Federated is buying, May Department Stores Co. The stores employ 13,500 people, but Federated spokesman Jim Sluzewski said he expected "very few if any" layoffs and that most workers would be offered other jobs.
Federated has pledged not to cut any jobs before March 1.
Ten May nameplates will be eliminated in fall 2006, Federated said, as the Cincinnati-based company laid out what it has in store after its takeover of rival May becomes final.
Federated says May's Lord & Taylor name, now on 58 stores, will stay, and that it's studying the Marshall Field's name. A Chicago landmark, there are 60 Marshall Field's stores.
It isn't known exactly when the transition will affect Utah's eight Meier & Frank stores (along with one David's Bridal), according to May Department Stores spokeswoman Sharon Bateman.
"All Federated has said is that the conversion for the May Co. stores will begin sometime in the fall of 2006," Bateman said. "That's the best information I have."
Federated also did not disclose its strategy for rebranding its new stores how it will introduce Utahns to the Macy's concept, market its products, create its own footprint.
And it isn't known whether the new owners will try to initiate discussions about the downtown Salt Lake store's operating hours specifically, whether it will ask to conduct business on Sundays.
At present, the ZCMI Center mall is closed on Sundays. Dale Bills, spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which owns the mall in which the downtown store is located, said Thursday that "the ZCMI Center has always been closed on Sundays since its construction. Meier & Frank accepted that condition for their downtown location when they acquired the ZCMI stores (in 1999).
"Lease terms negotiated prior to church ownership of the Crossroads Plaza allow some stores in that location to open on Sunday," Bills said, without disclosing store names.
What is more clear is that the transition will mean changes, which leaves May Co. employees with mixed emotions, Bateman said.
"Certainly, it's bittersweet," she said. "This conversion will give Federated a powerful national presence, but it is bittersweet to see the end of so many long-standing retail names."
Operating under the Federated umbrella, Bateman said the new Meier & Frank/Macy's will have a wingspan it didn't have before.
"Definitely, it will be a national department store company," she said. "They'll be able to advertise the Macy's brand nationally. There will be a customer loyalty program that's national, gift cards that are national, and a wedding registry that's national. These are all things I think will be terrific to the consumers."
The changes mean Macy's will have a total of 730 stores across the United States in nearly every major market. Federated's decisions followed research into customer attitudes.
"We respect that May Co's regional store names are deeply rooted in their communities, we appreciate the heritage and traditions associated with those names, and we expect to continue to play an important role in the communities where our customers live and work," Terry Lundgren, Federated's chairman, president and chief executive, said in a statement. "At the same time, we also have learned from our own experience converting Federated's regional nameplates. Our customers tell us . . . that what's inside a store the merchandise, the service, the people, the shopping environment is what matters most."
Federated in March dropped such long-established names as Burdines in Florida, Rich's in Atlanta and Lazarus in Ohio in favor of Macy's.
Robert Passikoff, president of Brand Keys Inc., a New York-based customer research marketing firm, said the conversion to Macy's "makes a lot of sense not only from the economic and communication point of view, but facing up to the realities of the marketplace."
He said there's always risk in changing well-known names but that the regional names no longer have as much impact as they did decades ago, while the Macy's name has a national identity with its stores and the annual Thanksgiving Day parade.
"Macy's has a lot of currency and a lot of resonating values," Passikoff said.
The current Federated and May stores have a combined $30 billion in annual sales. Federated said the 68 stores being sold account for $2 billion in annual sales.
All May stores will operate under their existing nameplates through the holidays. Federated said the plans may be adjusted and that a small number of stores may be converted to Bloomingdale's.
The May regional department stores involved in the conversion are Famous-Barr, Filene's, Foley's, Hecht's, The Jones Store, Kaufmann's, L.S. Ayres, Meier & Frank, Robinsons-May and Strawbridge's. Filene's Basement stores aren't owned by May and are unaffected. The Famous-Barr name dates to 1911 in St. Louis, May's corporate headquarters.
In Pittsburgh, where the Kaufmann's name dates to 1871, some shoppers weren't happy at the news.
"I do not like Macy's," said Laura L. Lapcevic, 39, who works near the 11-floor downtown store and shops there at least once a week. She worries Macy's prices will be higher. "Kaufmann's has good bargains."
Nick Jordanoff, 70, who bought shorts and a pair of Docker's pants at Kaufmann's, considers the store a piece of Pittsburgh history.
"Corporate conglomerates," he said. "You know they are taking over the world."
Shareholders of both companies approved the takeover this month. Federated expects the deal to close in the third quarter, following completion of regulatory review.Shares of Federated rose 47 cents to close at $76.24 on the New York Stock Exchange Thursday, where May shares rose 18 cents to $41.08.
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