Macy's exits as lead sponsor of Pittsburgh's holiday parade

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Department store operator Macy's is ending a 32-year sponsorship of Pittsburgh's Christmas season parade.

But the Cincinnati, Ohio-based retailer wants Pittsburghers to know that it still will unveil animated holiday windows at its Smithfield Street store on Light Up Night, it still will host breakfasts with Santa and it still will have a special area in the store for children to shop without their parents.

"We look forward to continuing these Macy's traditions as well as creating new events for families to enjoy throughout the year at our Macy's Downtown Pittsburgh store," said Andréa Schwartz, vice president of media relations and cause marketing for the retailer's north central region.

Still, the change means the event that has been billed as "My Macy's Holiday Parade" in recent years will need a new name, presumably one taken from a new sponsor.

WPXI-TV is seeking a sponsor to help support the event, which the station has televised and organized for 26 years. This year's parade is scheduled for Nov. 29. Typically the event draws tens of thousands of people to the city.

"We will do everything in our power to keep this parade alive, and we fully expect to," Ray Carter, vice president and general manager of WPXI-TV, said in a statement issued Thursday.

Sponsorships often are key to big projects, and a lack of marketing support has hurt other Pittsburgh traditions in the past.

After drugstore operator Rite Aid stopped sponsoring the annual Celebration of Lights at Hartwood Acres in 2010, the event continued for a couple of years but ended in 2012. The Pittsburgh Marathon shut down in 2004 after the race lost its title sponsor and the city was struggling with budget problems. The race has since been brought back and Findlay retailer Dick's Sporting Goods is now the title sponsor.

The decision by Macy's to pull out of the Pittsburgh holiday parade was part of an annual evaluation of sponsorships, Ms. Schwartz said.

In its announcement, WPXI said it learned of the decision in a letter from Amy Kule, vice president of Macy's parade and entertainment group in New York. The letter said, "I'm sure there is another worthy sponsor waiting in the wings that will be a great partner to you for your fine parade."

Macy's famously puts its name on the big Thanksgiving parade in New York City, and it also produces holiday parades in Portland and Seattle, according to Ms. Schwartz.

Any change by the retailer that affects Downtown Pittsburgh tends to revive concerns that Macy's eventually may close the last remaining department store in the city center. In recent years, the department store operator has consolidated its operations on several lower floors of the massive building it acquired when the company bought the parent of Kaufmann's department stores.

Teresa F. Lindeman: or at 412-263-2018.

Teresa F. Lindeman: or at 412-263-2018. First Published February 27, 2014 10:59 AM

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