[fi-leen, fahy-]
Filene, Edward Albert, 1860-1937, American merchant, b. Salem, Mass. As president of the Boston firm of William Filene's Sons he pioneered in scientific and ingenious methods of retail distribution—the "bargain basement" was one of his innovations. He planned and helped organize the Boston Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber of Commerce of the United States and served in World War I as chairman of the War Shipping Committee. He was active in civic reform movements and was the founder (1919) of the Cooperative League, which became the Twentieth Century Fund. He wrote several books on business methods and on economics. His liberal economic and political views made him a controversial figure.

See G. W. Johnson, Liberal's Progress (1948).

His brother, Lincoln Filene, 1865-1957, b. Boston, also directed William Filene's Sons and served as business counsel to the federal government after 1933. He played a prominent role in business associations and wrote a number of books and articles on economic problems.

Filene's was a Boston-based chain of department stores owned by Federated Department Stores (1929-1988; 2005-2006), and May Department Stores (1988-2005). It operated throughout New England and in New York.


Filene's was founded in Boston in 1881 as William Filene's Sons Co. Under the direction of company president Edward Filene, it opened its famous "Automatic Bargain Basement" in 1909, which became a heavily visited tourist attraction. The concept of the bargain basement was not new (Marshall Field's opened the first in 1879), but Filene's basement was well lit and ostentatiously decorated. The basement had its own staff which bought surplus, factory clearances, overstock, or closeout merchandise - Filene boasted that he had once sold more than 7,000 pairs of woolen underwear in two July days. Goods were marked down according to an automatic schedule; an item that had been on sale for 12 days was marked down by 25 percent, after 18 days by 50 percent, after 24 days by 75 percent, and after 30 days it was given away. Ninety percent of goods sold in the basement were purchased within the first 12 days of sale.

Filene's was one of the founding members of the Federated Department Stores, Inc. organization in 1929. It historically catered to the "carriage trade." In 1988, after the leveraged buy-out of Federated by Campeau Corp. of Toronto, Canada, the division was sold to May Department Stores Co. along with Foley's of Houston. It was at this time that Filene's and the equally famous Filene's Basement were disassociated. To this day, Filene's Basement is separately owned and operated by Retail Ventures, Inc.

In 1992 Filene's absorbed G. Fox & Co. of Hartford, Connecticut, another division of May Company. The 1990s saw a doubling of the Filene's organization as May invested in new stores and broadened Filene's price and product assortments. In 2002 it assumed operational control of the Kaufmann's stores in western New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia.

Effective August 30, 2005, Federated Department Stores completed its previously announced acquisition of May Department Stores, thus reuniting Federated and Filene's. On that day the Filene's/Kaufmann's organization was dissolved and the management of its stores was assumed by Macy's East and the new Macy's Midwest. The store's website was largely consolidated into during the spring of 2006. On September 9, 2006, the Filene's name and brand was completely phased out as Federated converted Filene's to the Macy's masthead. The landmark flagship Filene's department store at Downtown Crossing closed. Federated did not convert this store to a Macy's, as there was already a Macy's store across the street. (Until 1996, the Macy's location had been the flagship store of Filene's rival, Jordan Marsh.)

The former Filene's flagship location was sold to Vornado Realty Trust, and restored and redeveloped as office and retail space.

The Filene's Basement stores were not effected by the Filene's-Macy's merger, since the "Basement" had long been under totally separate ownership from Filene's. However, in 2007, the flagship Filene's Basement location was closed while the old Filene's building was rebuilt. The store is expected to move back into its legendary basement space in 2009.

The store's Downtown Crossing location was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.

Former Filene's Locations





New Hampshire

New York

Rhode Island

  • Providence - Providence Place (opened 1999, converted to Macy's 9/2006)
  • Warwick - Warwick Mall (opened 1970, converted to Macy's 5/2006) from 135,000 to
  • [Warwick, Rhode Island]-[Rhode Island Mall] (Converted from G. Fox in 1990, closed in 1993 to consolidate as the Warwick Mall across the street already had a larger store.)



Search another word or see fileneon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature