Turning Back the Marshall Field’s Clock

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Four years ago, the Marshall Field's flagship store on State Street was defaced, marred by corporate demons who took away its name, and yes, even its very soul.

At least, that's how "Fields Fans Chicago" would tell it. Since that cold September day in 2006 when the green and white of Marshall Field's vanished from Chicago, the group has been staging periodic protests demanding a return to the way things were.

And this year is no different. On Sunday, a group of undeterred activists are gathering outside what is now Macy's at the corner of State and Washington. They'll carry signs and chant slogans urging Macy's to turn back that big clock under which they're meeting, and restore State Street to its former glory.

It's difficult to tell these hardy souls that Macy's is not likely to listen -- ever. In the year after the store's name and color scheme were changed to make it a Macy's, the store did see a lag in sales, probably due in part to the switch. So did many of the 64 other Marshall Field's stores that were converted to Macy's across the Midwest. For a brief time, Macy's corporate profitability was down a whopping 77 percent. But that trend steadily reversed, and the State Street store has become one of the chain's best performing in the country. In August, Macy's Inc., announced it had beat its own profit estimates for the quarter, and in September, it reported another healthy increase in sales.

All that news doesn't deter Fields Fans. According to a release, they say "more than ever, Chicagoans want the return of Marshall Field's to State Street." They say the quality of service declined with the name change.  They do acknowledge that sales at Macy's are up -- but say sales would be even better if the store were branded a Marshall Field's once more.

Macy's isn't ignoring the local consumer, despite the insistence on keeping their name. Last year, they brought back the locally produced Frango Mints, just for Chicago stores.  The Walnut Room still has its huge Christmas tree every year.  And in their Chicago Fashion Incubator, local clothing designers have found a home.

So while Macy's is unlikely to reverse course and bring back the entire Marshall Field's experience, it is making an effort to keep the State Street store uniquely Chicago.

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