Party ushers out Kaufmann's and welcomes Macy's

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Darrell Sapp, Post-Gazette
The "Macy's Stars" dance on Smithfield Street yesterday as part of the Macy's block party.
By Teresa F. Lindeman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Downtown Kaufmann's kept its doors open more than a century -- forever in retail years -- but the massive department store officially became a Macy's yesterday in a ceremony that blended hometown pride, red balloons and a sales pitch with an acknowledgement that change isn't easy.

The bittersweet came in the form of a man who won an essay contest writing about meeting his future wife under the old clock at the corner of Smithfield and Fifth in 1943, and in moments of silence honoring recently deceased Mayor Bob O'Connor.

Yet Macy's executives kept the block party going with reassurances that Pittsburgh's favorite traditions would stay while the store would benefit from being part of an 800-store department store chain with bright light, bigger aisles and new brands.

Macy's owner Federated Department Stores bought Kaufmann's parent May Department Stores last year but moved slowly to shift the acquired stores under the new name. Events are planned all weekend, both here and in other parts of the country, to celebrate making the name changes official.

Federated already has begun taking advantage of its national reach to do more TV and magazine advertising.

In trying to make the massive change palatable, the company also has been paying attention to its shoppers, said Federated Vice Chair Susan D. Kronick, who was in town for the festivities. Hundreds of thousands of customers have offered feedback through the Web and through letters sent to credit card holders.

The goal is to make each store right for its particular market with different merchandise tailored to those customers. "I am sure that we will make mistakes," she said, but added Federated believes this retail model can succeed where department stores have struggled in the past.

Yesterday's mid-day block party on Smithfield Street certainly seemed tailored to the local audience. In addition to giving several cheers for the Pittsburgh Steelers, the master of ceremonies pointed out that the food stalls offered, among other things, cookies and pierogies.

Darrell Sapp, Post-Gazette
Federated Vice Chair Susan D. Kronick speaks to the crowd.
Click photo for larger image.

Teresa F. Lindeman can be reached at tlindeman@post-gazette.com or at 412-263-2018.


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