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All 21 Bullock's to Be Converted to Macy's Stores

October 13, 1995|GEORGE WHITE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Another venerable name in Southern California retailing--Bullock's--will soon disappear from the scene.

Federated Department Stores confirmed Thursday that it will convert its 21-store Bullock's chain into Macy's stores to place its statewide merchandising operations under one retailing roof.

Although the change will erase the Bullock's marquee 88 years after the first Bullock's department store opened at 7th Street and Broadway in Los Angeles, it will introduce the famed Macy's name to Southern California for the first time.

Federated executives disclosed their plans to The Times one day after the company completed its acquisition of Los Angeles-based Broadway Stores Inc. Federated had already announced that it will drop the Broadway name.

Although it will close an undetermined number of the 82 Broadway stores, Cincinnati-based Federated had been expected to convert most of the remaining Broadways in Southern California into Bullock's and the rest into Bloomingdale's.

However, Federated now plans to convert the Broadway sites to Macy's and Bloomingdale's as part of its national plan to further raise the profile of its three main chains--Macy's, Bloomingdale's and Stern's, a chain of East Coast department stores.

"We think the Bullock's name has value, but--as we grow in California--we can't operate three or four names," said Michael Steinberg, chairman of Macy's West, a division of Federated.

Federated is relying heavily on a store remodeling program to differentiate the new name from the old because Macy's and Bullock's already have the same mix of merchandise.

"The Macy's and Bloomingdale's names are two of Federated's greatest assets," said Ira Kalish, senior economist in the Los Angeles offices of Management Horizons, the retail consulting division of Price Waterhouse.

"Macy's and Bloomingdale's have national reputations but the two have not had a presence in Southern California. It's a sensible decision. Success depends on how well it's executed."

Federated has already begun to prepare customers for the conversion with a new advertising campaign designed to associate the Macy's and Bullock's chains. In the ads, introduced earlier this month, Bullock's is described as "part of the Macy's family."

Industry analysts say the conversion should have little impact on the spending of advertising dollars, with Federated likely to advertise Macy's as frequently as it did Bullock's. They say the converted Macy's stores will be competing directly with the Robinsons-May chain while Bloomingdale's vies for more upscale customers.

"This will help rejuvenate the department store industry in Southern California, which has been in doldrums in recent years," Kalish said. "It will be a market share battle . . . because consumers are not as fashion conscious as they used to be and they're buying more from discount chains."

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All 21 of the Bullock's stores are in Southern California. Macy's 25 California stores are all in the north. Currently, the Macy's closest to Southern California is in Fresno.

Customers at the Bullock's in Citicorp Plaza at 7th and Figueroa streets Downtown liked the sound of the change when asked about it Thursday, and said they have a favorable impression of Macy's.

"When I hear Macy's I think of the Macy's parade," said Jose Gutierrez of Los Angeles. "I think it's a classy and prestigious company."

But the seemingly endless mergers, consolidations and bankruptcies among department store chains have also left customers puzzled. Said shopper Linda Frederickson of Los Angeles, "Boy, there are a lot of changes going on in retailing. I'm not sure why they're doing this."

Sales associate Brian Price, who has worked for Bullock's for 12 years, figured the new identity will be especially helpful at the Downtown location because "we get a lot of tourists Downtown and they know the Macy's name."

But for colleague Loretta Gamboa, a six-year employee, "It's going to be sad. We still have some strong Bullock's customers."

Bullock's 1,100 store employees will not be affected by the name change, the company said. Both Macy's and Bullock's are already managed by the San Francisco-based Macy's West division.

Consumers will see no changes in credit billing. Macy's and Bullock's credit cards are already honored at both chains. Consumers can continue to use valid Bullock's cards after the conversion is complete, executives said.

Federated said it will spend $350 million to remodel Broadway stores. Federated has already begun to execute a $500-million remodeling plan for Bullock's and the 35 Macy's stores in its four-state Macy's West division.

Federated will begin to convert Bullock's stores next April and expects to complete the process by July. The company has no timetable for the Broadway conversions because it has not yet determined which stores to sell.

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