CEO talks about changing face of Macy’s

Marshall Field’s switch to Macy’s created challenges for retail merchandisers.

Kelly Gulbrandson

Last September, Macy’s North bought Marshall Field’s from the Target Corporation, creating a change that gives those in the Twin Cities metro area a new brand to ponder.

Frank Guzzetta, chairman and chief executive officer of Macy’s North, which is comprised of Minnesota and seven other northern states, spoke Tuesday at the McNamara Alumni Center for the first installment of the Carlson School of Management’s First Tuesday Luncheon series.

Emily Nelson, event planner for the Carlson School, said the series brings in local business professionals to talk about industry issues.

During the lecture, Guzzetta said it was hard for customers to become familiar with the brand change at first, since some people still thought of the store as Marshall Field’s or Dayton’s, Marshall Field’s predecessor.

While a major component of the transformation was making physical changes to the buildings, Guzzetta said another challenge that still exists is to make customers believe Macy’s is their hometown store.

Macy’s had an advantage in marketing its brand because of its national reputation and peoples’ familiarity with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. But he said 80 percent of Macy’s marketing was focused locally so as to familiarize existing customers to the name change.

Wayne Mueller, a marketing and logistics management lecturer in the Carlson School, said while Macy’s is still in the brand-building stage, it will likely break through nationally in the coming years.

“Customers need awareness and familiarity of a brand before recognizing it as a new brand,” he said.

Guzzetta said keeping previous Marshall Field’s traditions in the Minneapolis Macy’s store, such as the holiday display and annual flower shows, will help maintain customer loyalty.

“Department stores are the most enduring local institutions,” he said when speaking about the condition of the retail industry.

Despite this, Mueller said department stores traditionally have had the hardest time expanding. Stores like Target, which experience more growth, are challenging higher-end department stores, he said.

Marketing and finance junior Tyler Pearson said he doesn’t think brand changes will impact students looking for jobs in the retail industry.

He also said a company’s brand is its identity, and Macy’s will continue to be a “powerhouse.”

“With Macy’s, customers know they are getting high-quality merchandise,” he said.