Dreams of Field’s: Famed Chicago Store Embarks on Overhaul

Marshall Field’s is reinventing its wheel with a three-month renovation of its State Street flagship in Chicago and an expanded vendor leasing program.

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Photo By Karen Hoyt

CHICAGO — Marshall Field’s is reinventing its wheel.

Launching a three-month renovation of its 150-year-old State Street flagship here, Marshall Field’s is attempting to remake not only its 10 floors of shopping space, but also its overall retail experience, including an expanded and aggressive vendor leasing program.

Forming partnerships with about 500 brands, including Yves Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta, Thomas Pink, Yahoo, cosmetics and Olsen Europe, Ralph Hughes, regional director, said Field’s wants to sprinkle surprises on each floor, offering goods and services that shoppers might not expect to find in one department store.

Many of those surprises are the result of the leasing program, under which executives plan to lease about 10 percent of State Street’s 800,000 square feet of selling space by mid-September, when the bulk of renovations should be completed.

“Today, department stores are struggling to differentiate themselves,” Hughes said. “If you take the name off outside and walk in, you could be anywhere.

“We see this [reinvention] as crystallizing our brand,” he added. “Differentiation is key. We’ll have what you expect from Marshall Field’s heavily peppered with things you don’t expect.”

Marshall Field’s had annual revenues of $2.7 billion in 2002, generated from more than 14 million square feet of retail space. Field’s operates 62 stores in eight states. Chainwide, sales per square foot come out to around $193. At 800,000 square feet, State Street is one of the largest department stores in the world.

Executives declined to put a dollar figure on the cost of the renovation project, which was unveiled with great fanfare last week. A spokeswoman also said the renovation will add “modestly” to the selling space in the store, but precisely how much is still in flux.

Field’s began leasing space last year to Mimi Maternity on its fourth floor, Creative Kidstuff on the fifth and Thomas Pink on its first floor in November. The concept proved to be successful for the merchant as well as the makers. Thomas Pink, for example, plans to lease additional space for women’s wear this fall. Todd Jaeger, project manager for new business development, said the leasing idea is not groundbreaking for Field’s, since the store has leased space in the past. However, the amount and type of leasing is. “The model is probably more of a European model,” Jaeger said, “especially in the U.K., where it’s more prevalent. They’ve got it down to a science.”
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