Disclaimer: The following post, you’ll find, has little to do with Transit or recent development, but I’d like to take the time to address the apathetic attitude of our locals when it comes down to our city’s culture, history, and identity by discussing the re-branding of our local brand Burdines to Macy’s.

On June 1, the behemoth corporation known as Federated Department Stores will officially become Macy’s Inc., a move which further unifies but isolates the national retailer in the eyes of many. Federated Department Stores, which itself only acquired Macy’s in the mid 90’s, was responsible for the re-branding of local retailers across the country including our very own Burdines stores (acquired by Federated in 1956.) Other local regional retailers affected by the name games include: Bon Marche (Washington), Goldsmith’s (Tennessee), Lazarus (Cincinnati), Kauffman’s (Pittsburgh), Filene’s (Boston), Foley’s (Houston), L.S. Ayers (Indianapolis), Hecht’s (Maryland), and Marshall Field’s (Chicago) among others. In 2005, Federated Department stores completed the renaming of these and several other department stores nationwide.

Part of me can’t blame Federated for making a move to create a national brand image for their department stores. However, another part of me longs for the unique qualities of each retailer, the names, the history, and the traditions they instilled in the communities which fostered their growth.

It’s the removal of a crucial piece of local history- and the public reaction since which really strikes a chord within me. In early 2004, when Burdines became Burdines-Macy’s I encountered many people who shared my same displeasure with the new moniker. I, like many people, had always associated the Macy’s name with New York, the Thanksgiving Day parade, and iconic store in Herald Square. Likewise, we had always associated Burdines with our hometown, the Downtown Christmas display (for those old enough to remember it), the tacky plastic palm trees, or the Art Deco Marquee on Meridan Avenue. Simply put, to see the two names combined was appalling if not downright confusing. What shocked me most (which with 20/20 hindsight really shouldn’t have) was the passive response of locals. It irked me to see the work of William M. Burdine, a pioneer in our community in 1898, just two years after Flagler’s FEC arrived, wash away so easily under a corporate renaming scheme. The History which built Burdines into “The Florida Store,” is nearly repeated and identical when looking at all the other stores listed above. Each city had its own distinctive flagship store located downtown and started by an entrepreneur in the mid to late 1800’s.

Like Burdines, many of the department stores went down without major local opposition. There is one key exception, however: Marshall Fields. The citizens of Chicago have organized in opposition of the Macy’s re-branding in an effort to revert the Chicago Icon to its former glory and if not, at least preserve the history that Federated has consciously tried to erase. The Marshall Fields Supporters have held rallies, gathered thousands of signatures on petitions, and have been boycotting Macy’s since it removed the Chicago name. So far, it’s working. Macy’s sales at the once flagship store have dropped considerably. Federated’s sales are down nationwide and the chain missed analyst’s expectations. The same effect can be seen in the Ohio area where the Lazarus stores were re-branded and in Seattle where Bon-Marsh once thrived. As this article is careful to point out, sales have dropped nearly nationwide, except Miami:

MIAMI
At Burdines, another market where Macy’s has been around for two decades, the renaming appeared to have little effect. Of those shoppers surveyed, 47 percent said they shopped at Macy’s in 2006, unchanged from the 47 percent in 2004 that shopped at Burdines-Macy’s. In 2002, 57 percent surveyed shopped at either Burdines or Macy’s. When asked to break it out, 51 percent of shoppers frequented Burdines and 24 percent visited Macy’s.

Coincidence? I think not, it seems like more of a lack of local identity to me…

Former flagship Lazarus Department store in downtown Cincinnati compared to the bland, characterless new store introduced under the Macy’s name (Via Wikipedia)…

Here is an interesting piece of information I just discovered. The site of the “iconic” Sears Tower, integrated with the struggling Carnival Center, was originally a Burdines store before Sears bought the land next door, built the tower, and bought them out…

  • Thanks to Magic City on SSC for the Historical Pictures…
  • This article was written in part due to an e-mail sent to me by the South Beach Hoosier, thanks for the contribution David…

10 Responses to What’s in a Name? A whole lot more than you’d think…

  1. John says:

    I think less apathy, more the trasplant community we’ve become. Most people who live in Miami (and Southeast Florida as a whole) didn’t grow up here, and thus without the Burdine’s name, that it doesn’t hold the attatchment the midwestern folk have. Also, I’d be willing to bet a lot of those transplants came from Macy’s hometown of NYC, and feel more attatchment to that name than they ever did for The Florida Store.

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  2. Anonymous says:

    South Florida was unique in that it had Macy’s and Burdines stores coexist for 20 years or so (as well as Bloomingdale’s). Tampa and Orlando did not get Macy’s stores that weren’t formerly Burdines until much later. Before the rebranding, it was becoming evident that the stores were becoming identical, from identical clothing lineups, the use of the same Federated private labels, to the various promotions. It was still a fun bragging right to say that our market had a Macy’s, though. Now it isn’t very unique.

    Nationalizing the brand is probably something you can blame on Wal-Mart. The regional identities and the tropical colors of The Florida Store will be missed.

    I do wonder, though, how the image of Bloomingdale’s will be affected, now that its parent’s name is Macy’s. Will it downgrade the image of that brand? Hmmmm…

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  3. Gabriel J. Lopez-Bernal says:

    Indifference then…Either way its a severe lack of unity among our community. There isn’t too much respect for our local history and there are very few people actively working to preserve it. My point is that we need to get people to care about our history and culture before we can expect them to care about the current state of affairs…

    Anon- From what I’ve read for some reason Macy’s has chosen to keep the Bloomingdales Brand around under its own name…No clue why although I have a hunch that they are trying to market it as their “upscale” national brand…

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  4. Mark says:

    It is not apathy. It is the fact that a huge part of Miami’s community is transplanted from the Northeast. When Macy*s first Florida store opened in Aventura in 1983, they chose Miami because even though there was absolutely no Macy*s store in the entire region, Miami had one of the country’s largest concentration of Macy*s credit card holders.

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  5. latinbombshell says:

    G, it will always be Burdines to me, just like Joe Robbie Stadium.

    I think that the transplant issue, plus the fact that older generations are well, getting old and passing away, might have something to do with it, in addition to apathy on the part of long-term locals. It’s not often one comes across people who are passionate about Miami’s history. I think for most people here, it’s just “shopping,” that’s all. Plus Macy’s-Burdines whatever haven’t really sponsored any major parades or community building events in recent years. I guess you need to keep doing that to not just become another place to shop.

    Target, Macy’s etc; all have community foundations but you never really hear major major publicity about community projects.

    I think this kind of post is totally relevant by the way, since you discuss city development issues in addition to transit. How culture gets swept under the rug or erased is just as important as how progress is implemented. Thank goodness for the Historical Museum. They are always doing such a great job of keeping history alive and relevant.

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  6. Anonymous says:

    Not to sound cold but… who cares. I thought this was transitmiami.com not retailmiami.com. Lets keep the stories about transit and urban design please. I’m sure I’m not the only one with this sentiment.

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  7. Gabriel J. Lopez-Bernal says:

    Actually you are, read the comment above and read the disclaimer on the article while you’re at it. I think it’s beneficial to the whole site, there is more to Transit and Development than the tangible benefits of both. The Miami mentality is a major player in the type of growth we’ve experienced and a major obstacle to future change, if we don’t address the fact that nobody seems to care about our civic history then i`m doing this site and my readers a severe disjustice…

    Other factors which I think should be addressed in greater detail include: Education, Real-Estate, Architecture, Local Business, etc. Without properly analyzing these we can’t fully address the Transit/Development problems we’ve always faced…

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  8. Anonymous says:

    The reason that in 2002 only 24% said Macy*s, while 51% said Burdines is because there were only two Macy*s at the time (Aventura and The Falls) and there were Burdines in most shopping malls. Also, many people in southern Dade county were exstatic when they found out that a Macy*s was being built at The Falls.

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  9. [...] to the National Register in 1997. When the Arsht Center was built in 2006, developers decided to incorporate the Sears Tower, the first Art Deco building in the county that even predates those on Ocean [...]

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  10. [...] to a National Register in 1997. When a Arsht Center was built in 2006, developers motionless to incorporate a Sears Tower, a initial Art Deco building in a county that even predates those on Ocean [...]

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