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Saturday, August 2, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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It's now Bon-Macy's, but it's hard for customers to tell

Seattle Times business reporter

After knocking off a morning errand yesterday at Alderwood Mall, Vince Lawrence had no idea he'd just shopped at The Bon-Macy's.

Yesterday was the day when The Bon Marché, the Northwest's 113-year-old department-store chain, officially changed its name to The Bon-Macy's.

But the switch came as a surprise to Lawrence as he walked out of a building labeled "The Bon," carrying a new shirt and pair of Dockers in a bag with The Bon Marché logo.

"I didn't know anything was different," said Lawrence, of Lake Stevens. "Prices are still the same."

Shoppers saw The Bon-Macy's name in newspaper ads and on streetlight banners around the flagship store in downtown Seattle. But few other changes were perceptible to customers in most Bon stores yesterday.

"It's going to be more of a subtle change," Bon spokeswoman Kimberly Reason said.

Bon credit-card holders began receiving replacement Bon-Macy's cards last month, and the stores in Redmond, Bellevue and Tukwila have been converted to a new Bon-Macy's prototype with remodeled dressing rooms, mini shopping carts and self-serve price-checking machines.

Still, The Bon Marché name will live on a while longer. Reason said stores will use up their supply of Bon Marché bags before switching to Bon-Macy's bags. And outdoor signs won't take on the Macy's name anytime soon — company officials say it's too expensive to switch the signs now.

The name change is part of a rebranding strategy spearheaded by The Bon's parent company, Federated Department Stores, which has been looking for ways to drum up sales amid a lackluster economy.

In May, Federated announced plans to tack the Macy's name onto all the company's regional department-store chains, which include The Bon, Burdines, Lazarus and Goldsmith's. Federated is aiming to capitalize on the fame of the Macy's brand, best known for its Thanksgiving Day parade and its Manhattan flagship store.

Other Seattle-area stores will adopt the new prototype in time for the holidays, Reason said. And in the coming months, Bon shoppers may notice more emphasis on Macy's hallmarks such as fine jewelry, women's shoes and its housewares collection, known as "The Cellar."

But it was clear yesterday that the conversion to Bon-Macy's will be a gradual evolution, not a one-day event. Even salespeople expressed surprise when their computerized registers accepted Macy's gift cards.

Customers yesterday seemed largely unconcerned with what The Bon calls itself, so long as it doesn't affect their pocketbooks. In recent years, The Bon has become known for its steady parade of one-day sales.

"The sales are still there 360 days out of the year," Jackie Van Gilder of Vashon Island said as she left the downtown store. "I couldn't find any change at all."

Jake Batsell: 206-464-2718 or jbatsell@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2003 The Seattle Times Company

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