Here we go again. One by one, cities are losing their beloved department stores. Atlanta lost Rich’s. Chicago lost Marshall Field’s. And today, Parisian — the much-loved Birmingham-based retailer — becomes Belk.
Time will tell if shoppers learn to love Belk the way they loved Parisian, but many agree that it will be an uphill climb since Parisian had the reputation of being an upscale store with cachet and Belk has the reputation — deserved or not — of being a more middle-of-the-road retailer.
Belk executives say that the retailer changes its stripes to fit its market, so that some Belk stores serve downscale shoppers while some are more upscale. Certainly, the full-page Belk ad in this morning’s Atlanta paper positions Belk — which suddenly has five Atlanta stores thanks to the changeover — as a higher-end store.
But, as Marshall Field’s lovers are proving to Macy’s, shoppers don’t easily forget their favorite stores.
Native Alabamian Margaret Anthony recalls that service was a “real hallmark” of Parisian “similar to the way Rich’s was perceived in Atlanta.” Like her mother, Anthony loved Parisian.
“One of my favorite fall memories,” she says, “was going to the Eastwood Mall location (since demolished) on Saturday afternoons, looking through the Junior Department and listening to the Alabama football game over the intercom storewide.”
Ah, yes, now that is the mark of a local retailer. Can Belk erase such memories? Not likely. Can Belk find its way into the hearts and minds of shoppers? We’ll see.