Boo-hoo. Another retailing giant disappears today. Marshall Field’s is no more. Another Macy’s takes over, thanks to a decision by the behemoth Federated Department Stores. Federated Chairman Terry Lundgren told the Chicago Tribune that his company views the morphing of Marshall Field’s into Macy’s as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Well, maybe. The same thing happened in Atlanta. The famous Rich’s, an Atlanta institution for more than 100 years, is gone. Macy’s took its place. Similar to the banking industry where it seems that soon there will be just one bank, it also looks like there will be just one department store — Macy’s. That might be good for Terry Lundgren and company, but it’s sad for shoppers.
Everybody who ever shopped in his or her own city’s big downtown department store knows that these stores had a mystique that simply cannot be replaced. Chicago Tribune reader Edgar had this to say about the switcheroo: “Welcome to Macy’s horrible service. Their flagship store is horrible. Can’t Mayor Daley revive the Harrod’s On State Street plan for Block 37! Macy’s stinks on State Street. Who’s gonna sponsor the Christmas Parade here? Mediocrity reigns supreme as of today.”
Wrote another Tribune reader, Marina: “A landmark is gone. Marshall Field must be turning over in his grave.”
Atlanta journalist Celestine Sibley wrote an entire book, "Dear Store: An Affectionate Portrait of Rich’s," about the Atlanta store founded by in 1867 by Morris Rich, “. . . Georgians are patriotic about Rich’s in the way they are patriotic about the weather and the dogwood trees, the Cyclorama and “Gone With The Wind,” she wrote.
And it’s true. Rich’s became Macy’s a while ago, but Atlantans and Georgians aren’t over it yet. Neither will Chicagoans get over Marshall Field’s.
Today is a sad day in retailing.
But the news may open up opportunities for small retailers to become community icons, replacing the ones that have been snapped up and put out of business by the big guys. Shoppers love a homegrown, hometown store that is a community icon. Mourn Marshall Field’s, then think about becoming the next great retailer in your community.