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Era Ends With New Beginning

(Hecht's Company - Hecht's Company)
By Ylan Q. Mui
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 9, 2006

Every morning for the past few months, when the lights have flicked on at Hecht's in Metro Center, the store has looked a little bit different -- a little bit more like Macy's.

Sometimes the changes have been small, such as new mattresses for the bedding displays or shiny new wood-and-chrome fixtures. Other times walls have been demolished. On a recent morning, mannequins were outfitted in Macy's latest back-to-school styles to kick off the season's promotions.

Daily morning staff rallies are devoted to Macy's sales strategies. Store manager Larry Kinton reminded associates recently that Macy's targets younger consumers. He urged them to push Macy's credit cards and tickets to the company's charity event, Shop for a Cause. He ended with a review of Macy's customer service mantra.

"Our primary focus every day is what?" Kinton asked.

"The customer," the associates responded in unison. They applauded.

"Let's show our customer how great we are. Big smiles," he said as the meeting broke up.

Today, the transformation will be complete. When stores open this morning, the Hecht's nameplate, along with those of several other regional brands formerly owned by May Department Store Co., will have been replaced by Macy's, part of a plan to create a new national department store chain.

The changeover marks the end of an era in Washington retailing, with Hecht's following local icons Garfinckel's, Woodward & Lothrop and Hechinger's into the history books.

"I think there's nostalgia from everybody," Kinton said. "We're sorry to see it go."

The bell began to toll for Hecht's a year ago, when Macy's parent company, Federated Department Stores Inc., acquired the May company in an $11 billion deal that changed the face of U.S. retailing. May owned several big-name regional department store chains with strong local ties, including Hecht's, Marshall Field's in Chicago and Filene's in Boston. Federated is converting more than 400 May stores into Macy's, while a handful will become Bloomingdale's.

In Washington, all but one Hecht's store has been renamed Macy's. The company is planning ribbon-cutting ceremonies and promotions at all local stores, along with special events at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda. The freestanding Hecht's store under construction in Chevy Chase will become a Bloomingdale's.

"Our organization has worked extraordinarily hard over the past year to make this enterprise successful," said Ronald Klein, chairman of Macy's East division. "It's department store history. We're turning a page in the history of retailing."

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