Macy’s Could Learn From Syms

By Mike Maddaloni on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 at 05:10 PM with 1 comments

Marshall Field's logo"An educated consumer is out best customer..." I can still hear those words from the monotone voice on the commercials for Syms, a New Jersey-based "off-price" clothing store chain with locations in 13 states including Massachusetts and Illinois. It is not just in their commercials – it is on their signs and at the top of their Web site as well. It is something they believe in strongly, and something I believe in strongly myself in business in general. The more a customer knows about the vendor and its services, the better informed they will be in their commerce decisions. As old as the statement is, it is ever fresh.

I just finished reading Macy’s reaction to a story on CBS2 about their slumping sales and perception in Chicagoland since they acquired and renamed all Marshall Field’s to Macy’s. Once again, Macy’s is on the defensive, and this time its from a person other than CEO Terry Lundgren; it’s Ralph Hughes, who apparently worked for Field’s and now gets his paychecks from Macy’s. And once again, I had to laugh. Hughes said he was "stunned" and "bothered" by reactions of the growing population of former shoppers of the State Street store and others in the area. "I heard one person say the we had attitude" is another quote, and he later says, "If we had it to do over again we would do what we're doing today, which is recognizing that some people are going to be very angry with this." The attitude is there, alive and well in your statements Mr. Hughes.

Prior to Macy’s acquisition of Field’s parent May Company, there were no Macy’s stores in Chicagoland. So from the get-go, they replaced an extremely well-rooted and known store with one some only know about for their Thanksgiving parade sponsorship in New York City. They repeatedly stated it was a business decision as they were creating a national brand of stores. There was also the promise of a fresh foods market and returning Frango production to Chicago.

So what do you do when business sucks, blame your customers or clients? People with knowledge of the Windy City can tell you about the meaning of Field’s here, and you don’t have to go much farther to get hard data to back it up. About all Macy’s did was change the signs and awnings, mail out a few coupons and expect everything to be the same the next day. Almost a year later it is not. There has been no effort to reach out to customers and introduce Macy’s to the area. No media campaign, no human element, nothing. Frango mints are still not made here, and there is no market, which after the recent bug infestation of the food court may not be a bad thing. Even Chase Bank hired Mayor Daley’s brother and former Commerce secretary Bill as the head of the Midwest operations when it took over Chicago-based Bank One.

Buying a $300 sweater or handbag is not a business decision, rather it is one made by humans with real emotions involved throughout. Macy’s may not be back to square one, maybe square two, and they will go no further without changing their attitude and embracing and educating former Field’s customers.

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