I remember like it was yesterday: Federated Stores was to buy May Company, leading to a huge collection of department stores. Macy's and Lord & Taylor? Why, both of those stores were at the Galleria. But I didn't know the consequences...for nearly every department store I knew was disappearing. Mervyn's was never in my city, and Montgomery Ward had pulled out in 1997, the mall it was in (Manor East) was being knocked out in favor of a strip center anchored by a shiny new H-E-B. Soon I became aware that Florida-based Burdines had become "Burdines-Macy's", ending my vision of Macy's being a nice, upscale store. With the large department stores it absorbed, it soon became obvious there would be a glut of Macy's in America. No store was unscathed. Lord & Taylor was saved, but it pulled out of the Texas market. Foley's of Houston, Famous-Barr of St. Louis, Marshall Field's of Chicago, Kaufmann's of Pittsburgh...it was all too much. There was overlap. Foley's and Macy's both had store space in The Galleria. Many malls in Arizona and California had both Macy's (often converted from a The Broadway, Emporium-Capwell, or Bullock's). Malls in New England had both Filene's and Macy's (always from a Jordan Marsh). And malls in the Pennsylvania-Ohio area had both Lazarus (which became Macy's in 2005) and Kaufmann's. And Philadelphia had a few that had both Strawbridge & Clothier and Macy's (often Bamberger's). What do with all that? Malls like The Galleria in Houston got to keep both open as full-line stores, but that was a rarity and few malls did so. Others closed a store...either closing the original Macy's or the second nameplate that would be converted.
Sadly, in most cases, this would leave a lot of vacant space open, and the sale of Lord & Taylor left lots of closed stores. What would happen to those stores? Montgomery Ward had left six years earlier and most malls had recovered from it, often replacing it with a modern department store or perhaps a Target. Of course, the economy was pretty good: they would be easy to fill...right?
Tomorrow: Part 2: A Lucky Winner