- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 28, 2005

The Hecht’s name will disappear from the Washington area next year as new owner Federated Department Stores Inc. expands its Macy’s brand and eliminates most of May Department Stores Co.’s regional brands.

The name change marks the death of yet another homegrown Washington retailer, going the way of defunct Woodward & Lothrop, Garfinckel’s and Hechinger’s.

The Cincinnati department-store chain yesterday outlined its plans to add about 330 Macy’s locations nationwide next year as it converts the regional May brands, as well as sell off nearly 70 stores in locations where the two companies both have stores, such as Westfield Shoppingtown in Wheaton and Fair Oaks Mall in Fairfax.

It is no surprise that Federated, which also owns Bloomingdale’s, wants to eliminate May’s various brands. The company began converting its own regional brands to Macy’s about two years ago.

“Macy’s emerged as a premier national retailer in March 2005, when we changed Federated’s regional department-store nameplates,” said Terry J. Lundgren, Federated’s chairman, president and chief executive officer. “We will continue that process in 2006 by converting many of May Co.’s regional store nameplates to Macy’s.”

The number of Macy’s stores will increase to about 730 locations.

The name changes will mean that 10 of May’s brands will be switched to Macy’s: Famous-Barr, Filene’s, Foley’s, Hecht’s, the Jones Store, Kaufmann’s, L.S. Ayres, Meier & Frank, Robinsons-May and Strawbridge’s. Lord & Taylor, which has 58 stores, and Marshall Field’s, which has 60 stores, will remain for now.

“We respect that May Co.’s regional store names are deeply rooted in their communities; we appreciate the heritage and traditions associated with those names,” Mr. Lundgren said.

Hecht’s opened in Baltimore in 1857 as a furniture shop. The first full-service department store opened in 1885, and the first Washington location opened 11 years later. The chain continued to grow and was purchased by May in 1959. The company, based in Arlington, has 81 stores from New Jersey to Tennessee.

“Although a staple in the Washington area for a long time and will be missed, Hecht’s just wasn’t what it used to be,” said Richard Lake, managing principal at Madison Retail Group. “We lost the real Hecht’s a long time ago.”

Hecht’s will join the list of other regional brands that have disappeared in the Washington area: Garfinckel’s closed in 1990, Woodward & Lothrop folded in 1995, and Hechinger’s shut down four years later.

“There’s always going to be historic and traditional values attached to stores that have been around for a while,” said Robert Passikoff, president of Brand Keys Inc., a brand and customer loyalty consulting firm in New York. “But history and tradition does not drive profit.”

Federated plans to sell its 68 duplicate locations, which include some Macy’s stores, beginning next year, after the holiday season. The name changes will begin in fall 2006, said spokeswoman Carol Sanger.

For example, Federated will sell the Hecht’s at Westfield Wheaton, where a Macy’s opened in May. Federated expects also to sell the Macy’s at Fair Oaks and convert the existing Hecht’s into a Macy’s.

However, Federated has an “operating covenant” with Fair Oaks that states it is obligated to operate the existing Macy’s, said Karen MacDonald, a spokeswoman for Taubman Centers, which owns Fair Oaks. Ms. MacDonald would not disclose any details about the contract.

Federated said it will sell the divested properties to landlords, developers or third parties.

The company does not plan to eliminate any jobs before March 1. Once the duplicate stores are closed, the remaining Macy’s location will have employees from both locations, Federated said.

Federated announced in March its plans to buy May. The $11 billion deal, which would make Federated the fourth-largest retailer in the United States, was approved by shareholders this month.

The deal is expected to close in the third quarter, pending completion of regulatory review.

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