Macy’s is good at selling clothes, bad at PR

A couple of weeks ago, I began reporting on what I hoped would be a news story about some of the programs Macy's is involved...

A couple of weeks ago, I began reporting on what I hoped would be a news story about some of the programs Macy's is involved with in Chicago. Macy's on State Street used to be Marshall Field's until a name change took place in September 2006. When the name change was first announced, Chicagoans protested at losing their iconic hometown department store and, according to this local news story, people are still pretty ticked off.

Now Macy's is working on a series of programs, intended to promote local designers and help those just starting their careers. Andrea Schwartz, the external and PR manager for Macy's North, was eager to tell me about the programs. "We are a fashion leader," she told me. "We are a national department store with a local focus. We feel privileged that we can offer [this] to Chicago."

However, when I asked her about how these programs tied into any existing program to ease the tension between the store and angry Chicago shoppers, Schwartz clammed up. She suggested I ask Jim Sluzewski, VP of corporate communications and external affairs. I asked him directly about whether there were any crisis communications programs in place. His evasive answer via email:

"We have a process of open and ongoing communications in all markets where regional store brands converted to Macy's last September. Part of our company's heritage is outreach to customers, media, and communities everywhere we operate... We have many outreach programs in Chicago. I'm sure Andrea can tell you about them."

I asked for more specifics and have yet to receive an answer.

In that local story, Ralph Hughes, a Macy's regional manager who worked at the store when it was Marshall Field's, says, "We just haven't done a good enough job of telling people what we have and who we are." When given the opportunity, the communications department at Macy's proved that to be true.

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