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Future of 11 O.C. Stores Yet Unknown

October 13, 1995|GREG JOHNSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Bullock's and Broadway are dead. Long live Macy's and Bloomingdale's.

That will be the new battle cry for hard-charging Orange County shoppers now that Federated Department Stores plans to replace the venerable Bullock's and Broadway nameplates with two of the Big Apple's best-known retail names.

Federated executives won't say until next year what's going to happen with the five Bullock's and six Broadway stores in Orange County.

But word that Macy's and Bloomie's are coming to town probably will spark big changes at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa and Fashion Island in Newport Beach because each of the tony centers has both Bullock's and Broadway stores.

South Coast Plaza has a Bullock's Department Store, a separate Bullock's Men's Store and a Broadway.

Fashion Island has both a Broadway department store and a Bullock's Women's Store.

Although mall owners have declined to speculate publicly on what Federated plans for their properties, that hasn't kept the rumor mill from swirling.

South Coast Plaza is known to be pitching itself as a picture-perfect spot for a prestigious Bloomingdale's.

Federated has been saying for years that it wants to add one of the upscale stores in Orange County. Earlier this year, Federated said its first Southern California Bloomingdale's would be built at an as-yet undetermined site on Los Angeles' Westside.

It's uncertain what Thursday's news means for Federated's timetable.

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There has also been speculation that Federated could turn one of its South Coast Plaza properties into a high-end home-furnishings store. Consumers have been embracing stores that offer a wider variety of furnishings than traditional department stores.

Federated is expected to close or sell off some of its Broadway stores, but mall managers don't know if any Orange County outlets are being targeted.

Now, shoppers and mall operators will have to add the impending demise of the familiar Bullock's name into the rumor mix.

"Bullock's, Bloomie's, Macy's. . . . I'd be happy with any of those three," drooled one anxious shopping center manager. "Any of them are better than the other alternatives, which were Schlock Inc. or another combination of Robinsons-May, which we've already got enough of."

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Federated must also determine the fate of Broadway stores at Huntington Beach Mall, Mall of Orange, Brea Mall and Laguna Hills Mall, as well as Bullock's stores at Mainplace/Santa Ana and Mission Viejo Mall.

Bullock's departure is the latest chapter in Southern California's rapidly changing retail story.

When Federated bought Broadway's stores in August, it set the stage for a knock-down fight against arch-rival Robinsons-May, the region's other dominant department store chain.

Robinsons-May was the result of a 1992 merger that combined the Robinsons and May chains.

Last November, R.H. Macy & Co., which is now part of Federated, closed its I. Magnin retail operation. The I. Magnin store at Fashion Island eventually reopened as a Bullock's Women's Store.

But even as department stores are consolidating, many shoppers are being wooed by large, national chains, including Wal-Mart and Kmart. Wal-Mart's success is prompting some retail industry observers to question the viability of more expensive department store chains.

Federated's announcement that it was buying the Broadway chain sparked disappointment among some longtime Southern Californians who have been forced to watch familiar names disappear beneath an ongoing wave of corporate mergers.

But most shoppers have seemed ready to embrace Federated's expanded presence in Orange County with open purses and wallets.

"I think all the department stores out here are lousy," a 31-year-old Laguna Beach resident said when Federated acquired Broadway in August. "I prefer to shop in New York. At least with a Bloomingdale's or a Macy's I can find what I want."

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