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Field’s Day Approaches: The Bidding Kicks Off For Famed Retail Chain

Target Corp. will begin to take offers this month on its Marshall Field’s and Mervyn’s divisions, raising the possibility of completing deals...

After Target eliminates low bids, remaining players get to “kick the tires” and begin the due diligence process.

According to one retail ceo, Field’s is a better fit with Federated than with May. Field’s and Federated were longtime members of the former Associated Merchandising Corp. buying office cooperative, where they shared information. “The income strata of their customers, the vendor structure, the cultures — so much aligns with the Federated group,” the source said. The Field’s vendor list is said to be about 90 percent similar to Federated’s, but only 60 percent to 70 percent similar to May’s.

“This would be a very clean buy for Federated. Aside from a couple of Bloomingdale’s stores [there are four in the Chicago area and one in Bloomington, Minn.], there is very little overlap,” the retail ceo said.

Retail sources familiar with the operations of Federated point out that the company would wait several months to a year before attaching the Macy’s name to Field’s stores and gradually phase out the Field’s name when it felt Midwesterners were comfortable with the new banner. Also, Federated is involved in other consolidations regionally, and is centralizing its home business, so it might take a while to convert Field’s.

Aside from dominating the Chicago market, Field’s also dominates the Detroit and Minneapolis markets. Since those stores were a few years ago under the Dayton and Hudson nameplates, Federated might do a faster conversion to Macy’s where consumers haven’t been living as long with Field’s.

Twenty years ago, Macy’s operated in the Midwest but pulled out. A Field’s buy would mark Macy’s return to the Midwest, even into certain markets such as Chicago, where it has never been, and small cities such as Flint and Grand Rapids.

But name changes are tricky.

“In these older northern cities, people are really attached to company names,” observed Ed Nakfoor, a retail consultant in the Detroit area. “Folks in the Target corporate office miscalculated about how passionate people are about having a hometown store and how attached they were to that Hudson’s name. Hudson’s, Field’s, Dayton’s, all stood for a lot. That’s why so many stores [including May and Federated] never entered the marketplace. They couldn’t compete.”
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