May Department Stores

The May Department Stores Company was a national department store chain in the United States, founded in 1877 by David May. The company ceased to exist in 2005 when it was purchased by Federated Department Stores (now known as Macy's, Inc.).


Founding and early years

1877: Founded in Leadville during the Colorado silver rush.

1888: Headquarters moved to Denver.

1905: Headquarters moved to St. Louis.

1910: Officially incorporated as The May Department Stores Company.

Early expansions

1911: The Famous Clothing Store (owned by May) and The William Barr Dry Goods Company merged to create Famous-Barr.

1923: May acquires A. Hamburger & Sons Company in Los Angeles and renames it as May Company California.

1946: May acquires the Kaufmann's chain based in Pittsburgh, retaining it as a separate division.

1956: May acquires The Daniels & Fisher Company of Denver, merging it with May stores in the area to create a new May D&F division.

1959: May acquires The Hecht Company of Baltimore, adding it as a new division.

1966: May acquires the Meier & Frank chain based in Portland, Oregon, adding it as a new division.

David's grandson Morton May became the chairman in 1951 and headed the company for 16 years. Morton May was active in St. Louis civic affairs and was a patron of the St. Louis Art Museum.

Late expansions

1986: May acquires the Associated Dry Goods holding company and its many famous store chains, the largest-ever retail acquisition in history at that time.

1996: May acquires the Strawbridge's chain based in Philadelphia.

1998: May acquires The Jones Store chain based in Kansas City, Missouri.

1999: May acquires Zions Cooperative Mercantile Institution based in Salt Lake City, folding it into the Meier & Frank subsidiary.

2004: May Department Stores takes over the Marshall Field's chain from Target Corporation.

Final years

2005: May is purchased by Federated Department Stores for $11 billion in stock, with all former May divisions being folded into Federated's various Macy's branches.

2006: Over 400 former May stores, with their wide variety of long-standing brand names, are consolidated and renamed as Macy's. In addition, Federated sells off three former May chains (David's Bridal, Lord & Taylor and Priscilla of Boston).

Merger of Federated and May

On February 28, 2005, Federated Department Stores, Inc. announced that they would acquire the May company in a deal that would create the nation's second largest department store chain with over 1,000 stores and $30 billion in annual sales. To help finance the May Company deal, Federated agreed to sell its combined proprietary credit card business to Citigroup as well as May's bridalwear business.

The Federated/May merger was completed on August 30, 2005 after an assurance agreement was reached with the State Attorneys General of New York, California, Massachusetts, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Federated announced plans to close 76 store locations over the ensuing year, having pledged in its anti-trust settlement to sell most of them in the above mentioned states as viable businesses, with preference being given to a group of thirteen competitors.

By September 2006, all of the May regional nameplates, except for the Lord & Taylor chain, ceased to exist as Federated consolidated its operations under the Macy's mastheads — including legendary Marshall Field's. All locations that were not sold off were rebranded as Macy's, except for one Hecht's location in Friendship Heights. That was rebuilt,and rebranded as Bloomingdale's. In advance of the retail consolidation, May's credit call center in Lorain, Ohio, ceased operations on July 1, 2006. Lord & Taylor, the lone department store division not to be largely converted to the Macy's nameplate, was sold to a group of investors at NRDC Equity Partners, LLC for $1.2 billion in October 2006. David's Bridal and After Hours Formalwear were also soon sold thereafter.

Historical department stores incorporated into May Company

Common name Full name Home location Founded Closed Fate
Castner Knott Castner-Knott Co. Nashville 1898 1998 Division of Mercantile Stores Co., Inc. when that company was acquired by Dillard's, Inc. in 1998. Its mall-based Nashville stores, the bulk of the chain, were sold to Saks Incorporated and operated as part of its regional Proffitt's chain, but were sold in turn to May in 2001 and incorporated into Hecht's. So while May never technically owned Castner-Knott, it inherited its most visible real estate.
Denver Dry Goods The Denver Dry Goods Co. Denver 1889 1987 Acquired as part of Associated Dry Goods Corp. in 1986, (which had acquired it in 1966), was largely shutdown and sold-off and the remaining units absorbed by May D&F in 1987.
Donaldson's The Donaldson Co. Minneapolis 1883 1987 Acquired by Allied Stores Corp. in 1928. In 1985 it acquired its struggling rival, The Powers Dry Goods Co., from Associated Dry Goods Corp., which gave it same breathing room against dominant rival Dayton's. In 1987, after Campeau Corp.'s buy-out of Allied Stores Corp., Donaldson's was purchased by Carson Pirie Scott & Co. of Chicago which renamed its stores with its own imprimatur. Carson's in its turn was acquired by P.A. Bergner & Co. of Milwaukee (and formerly of Peoria, Illinois) in 1989, which in turn filed for bankruptcy in 1991. In 1995 Carson's sold the rump of the chain to Dayton's parent Dayton Hudson (now Target Corporation), which re-opened them under its moderate Mervyn's chain, mostly in a move to prevent serious competition in its Twin Cities stronghold. In 2004 when Dayton's successor Marshall Field's was acquired by May, it also agreed to buy the former Donaldson's locations, which Mervyn's promptly shuttered, and be responsible for disposing of the real-estate.
Famous-Barr The Famous-Barr Co. St. Louis 1911 2006 Created in 1911 from the David May's acquisition of The William Barr Dry Goods Co., St. Louis and his previously owned Famous Clothing Store acquired in 1892. Name retired upon conversion of all locations to Macy's brand.
Filene's William Filene's Sons Co. Boston 1881 2006 One of the founding members of the Federated Department Stores organization in 1929. May acquired in the wake of Campeau Corp.’s 1988 acquisition of Federated. A major growth vehicle for May in the 1990s, absorbing the G. Fox & Co. chain based in Hartford in 1992, 2 Hess's stores in New York State in 1994, several Steiger's stores in Massachusetts in 1994, and took several former Sage-Allen locations after that chain's demise in 1993, as well as opening almost 20 new and replacement stores. In 2002 it assumed operational control of Kaufmann's.
Foley's Foley Brothers Houston 1900 2006 Joined the Federated Department Stores organization in 1947. Absorbed the Dallas-based Sanger-Harris chain in January 1987. It was acquired by May in the wake of Federated's 1988 acquisition by Campeau Corp. of Canada. In 1993 Foley's subsumed the May D&F chain based in Denver.
G. Fox G. Fox & Co. Hartford 1847 1992 Acquired by May in 1965 from the founder's granddaughter, Beatrice Fox Auerbach. It was merged into the Filene's organization in 1992.
Gimbels Gimbel Brothers Milwaukee 1887 1986 Never acquired by May as an entire chain, but when its then-owner, British-American Tobacco, shut down the historic chain in 1986, May purchased several desirable mall-based Pittsburgh area locations for its Kaufmann's division and Marshall Field's chose several Wisconsin Gimbels, most of which it subsequently closed.
Goldwater's Goldwater's Department Store Phoenix 1860 1989 Acquired by Associated Dry Goods Corp. in 1963, coming to May as part of the A.D.G. acquisition in 1986. May dissolved the division in 1989, with May D&F, May Company California and J. W. Robinson's absorbing various stores and the Tucson-area stores being sold to Dillard Department Stores.
Hahne's Hahne & Co. Newark 1858 1989 Acquired as part of the Associated Dry Goods Corp. acquisition in 1986, having been part of the 1916 conglomeration of American Dry Goods (later renamed Associated). After relocating its flagship from downtown Newark in 1988 to the former Gimbels at Garden State Plaza, its 9 stores were closed by May in 1989, with most of them absorbed by Lord & Taylor, with the large Garden State Plaza store bought by Nordstrom's.
Hecht's Hecht Co. Washington 1857 2006 Purchased by May in 1959, at which time it moved its Baltimore location into the May Company Baltimore location (formerly Bernheim-Leader until May acquired that store in 1929). In 1990 it acquired several locations in southern Virginia from the defunct Miller & Rhoads chain. And in 1992 it absorbed the Thalhimer's stores in Virginia and North Carolina. In 1994 it acquired 2 Hess's locations in Pennsylvania, and in 1995 acquired the Wanamaker's in the Philadelphia area (Pennsylvania, New Jersey & Delaware). In 1996 it absorbed the 13 former Strawbridge & Clothier stores in Philadelphia, and operated those and the previously acquired Wanamaker locations under the Strawbridge's name.
Hengerer's The William Hengerer Co. Buffalo 1874 1981 Division of Associated Dry Goods Corp. from its inception in 1916. Company was merged into Sibley, Lindsay & Curr Co. of Rochester in 1981.
Hess's Hess Brothers Allentown 1897 1994 Never acquired by May, but the remains of this secondary-market chain were divided between May and the Grumbacher Family's Bon-Ton chain in 1994, with Kaufmann's, Filene's and Hecht's splitting stores New York and Pennsylvania stores and May agreeing with Hess's former owner, mall-developer Crown America, to open several secondary locations in Pennsylvania.
Horne's Joseph Horne Co. Pittsburgh 1849 1994 Division of Associated Dry Goods, and historically the high-end department store of Pittsburgh. Was acquired by Associated Dry Goods in 1972 - and eventually acquired by May when ADG was purchased in October 1986. Due to anti-trust concerns and legal action by the City of Pittsburgh, it was promptly sold in December 1986 to an investor group. After several years of private ownership, it was announced the Dillards would be buying the chain to combine it with the Dillard/DeBartolo co-owned Higbee's stores based in Cleveland. The deal collapsed and was not completed. Eventually the Joseph Horne Co. was sold off in parts, with Dillard's acquiring its three Ohio stores in 1992 and Federated Department Stores's Lazarus division acquiring its remaining nine Pennsylvania stores in 1995. Federated eventually merged all of its divisions (including the former Joseph Horne/Lazarus locations) into Macy's.
The Jones Store The Jones Store Co. Kansas City 1887 2006 Former division of Mercantile Stores Co., Inc. before that company's acquisition by Dillard's, Inc. May purchased its locations and name in 1998 and operated them under its Famous-Barr division.
Kaufmann's Kaufmann Brothers Pittsburgh 1871 2006 Acquired by May in 1946. In 1986 it acquired several mall-based locations from the defunct Gimbels to replace nearby freestanding locations, as well as absorbing May-owned Strouss stores, based in Youngstown, Ohio. Ironically Gimbels Brothers history in Pittsburgh had originated with the purchase of the Kaufmann & Baer store in 1926, founded by a rival faction of the Kaufmann family. In 1992 it absorbed the Sibley's chain in upstate New York, in 1993 it absorbed the May Company Ohio franchise based in Cleveland, and in 1994 it acquired 6 former Hess's locations in central Pennsylvania and upstate New York. In 2003 Kaufmann's acquired the 2 Marshall Field's locations in Columbus, Ohio.
Levy's Levy Brothers Tucson 1950 1987 Acquired by Federated Department Stores, it was merged with Sanger-Harris Co. of Dallas in 1985, which itself was merged into Foley's in 1987. It former stores became part of Robinsons-May in 1996.
Lord & Taylor Lord & Taylor New York 1826 Active Was a founding member of the Associated Dry Goods Corp. organization (then American Dry Goods) in 1916 and became part of May with its 1986 acquisition of ADG. Was a long-time fashion leader, but as it attempted to expand nationwide it lost that reputation to upstart Nordstrom and long-time rival Saks Fifth Avenue. In the 1970s aggressively expanded into Texas, Illinois and Michigan and in the early 1980s south Florida saw 11 stores opened in quick succession. Shuttered a group of under-performing stores in the oil-shocked Texas and southern Florida markets in 1989-1990 after its acquisition by May. After continuing tepid results and repeated tinkering with its merchandising, May gave up its national ambitions for the division and announced the shuttering of 32 stores in 2003, many of them only a few years old, retreating to core Northeast markets along with locations in Chicago, Detroit, and St. Louis. Also occupies the former John Wanamaker landmark store in Center City Philadelphia. In January 2006, Federated Department Stores announced that the Lord & Taylor division for was sale. Federated announced its plans to divest May Company's Lord & Taylor division by the end of 2006 after concluding that chain did not fit with their strategic focus for building the Macy's and Bloomingdale's national brands. On June 22, 2006, Macy's announced that NDRC Equity Partners, LLC would purchase Lord & Taylor for US$1.2 billion, and completed the sale in October 2006.
L.S. Ayres L.S. Ayres & Co. Indianapolis 1872 1991 Acquired as part of Associated Dry Goods Corp. in 1986, which had acquired Ayres in 1972. It had previously absorbed H.& S. Pogue Company of Cincinnati in 1984 and Stewart's of Louisville in 1985. The underperforming locations of both former chains were swiftly divested by May in 1987 and 1988. L. S. Ayres was operationally consolidated with Famous-Barr in 1991, when its downtown Indianapolis flagship and 3 other under-performing stores were closed.
Marshall Field's Marshall Field & Co. Chicago 1852 2006 Adopted its longest-held name in 1881 after having operating as Field, Palmer & Leiter and Field & Leiter. Operated a famous location on State Street in Chicago. Retained its independence until 1982 when it was acquired by an arm of British-American Tobacco. Sold to Dayton Hudson Corporation in 1990, who added to the Field's presence when they rebranded their Dayton's and Hudson's stores as Marshall Field's prior to selling the brand to May in 2004.
May Company May Co. California Los Angeles 1923 1993 Acquired by David May in 1923 and renamed (formerly A. Hamburger & Sons Co., founded in 1881 by Asher Hamburger). It rapidly expanded throughout Southern California after World War II, opening its branch in 1939 on the Wilshire Boulevard Miracle Mile and its first modern shopping center locations at Baldwin Hills in 1947. In 1989 it took over operation of Goldwaters' Las Vegas, Nevada location. Merged with J.W. Robinson Co. in 1993 to form Robinsons-May.
May May Co. Cleveland Cleveland 1898 2006 Founded by David May and partners in 1898 after acquiring a Cleveland location. It absorbed M. O'Neil Co. of Akron, Ohio in 1989, and was itself subsequently merged into Kaufmann's.
May-Cohen's May-Cohen's Co. Jacksonville 1959 1987 Acquired by May in 1959 (formerly Cohen Brothers Co., founded in 1867) and renamed May-Florida in 1987 right before being sold to Maison Blanche/Goudchaux Co. of Baton Rouge in 1988. Its remaining locations were eventually renamed Gayfers after Maison Blanche's acquisition by Mercantile Stores Co., and then its legacy Jacksonville stores were re-sold to Belk, Inc. after Mercantile's acquisition by Dillard's in 1998. The sale included four stores in the Jacksonville area and one in Daytona Beach. The stores are at Regency Square, Roosevelt Mall, Orange Park Mall and Gateway Shopping Center in Jacksonville, and Volusia Mall in Daytona Beach.
May D&F May, Daniels & Fisher Denver 1957 1993 Created in 1957 when the original May operations in Colorado, founded in 1877 in Leadville, CO (and relocated to Denver in 1888), were merged with the newly acquired The Daniels & Fisher Co. store in Denver, Colorado. In 1987 May D&F absorbed 3 stores from The Denver Dry Goods Company (from the 1986 acquisition of Associated Dry Goods Corp.), and 1989 it assumed the Goldwater location in Albuquerque. It was merged into the Foley's division in 1993.
McCurdy's McCurdy & Co. Rochester 1901 1994 Acquired by May in 1994 and largely disgorged the same year under pressure from the New York State Attorney General.
Meier & Frank Meier & Frank Co. Portland 1857 2005 Acquired by May in 1966. In 2001 it absorbed the former ZCMI franchise in Utah. And in 2002 its operations were merged with the Robinsons-May division in Los Angeles, California, while retaining its name.
O'Neil's M. O'Neil Co. Akron 1877 1989 Acquired by May in 1912. In 1989 it was merged into May Co. Cleveland and eventually into Kaufmann's.
Pogue's H. & S. Pogue Co. Cincinnati 1863 1983 Division of Associated Dry Goods Corp., acquired by that company in 1962. In 1984 it was merged into L. S. Ayres & Co. of Indianapolis and after the May/ADG merger in 1986 its former locations were swiftly shuttered or sold to Hess's and JCPenney in 1987 and 1988.
Robinson's J.W. Robinson Co. Los Angeles 1881 1993 Division of Associated Dry Goods Corp. from 1957, and was acquired by May in October 1986 merger. It was historically a carriage-trade department store and operated in tandem with May's own middle-tier May Company California division for several years. (This did not apply to the separate Robinson's of Florida division, which May sold in 1987 to Maison Blanche.) In 1989 it took over operation of the Goldwater's stores in Phoenix, Arizona. In 1992 it merged with May Company California to form Robinsons-May.
Sanger-Harris Sanger-Harris Dallas 1961 1987 Result of the 1961 merger of the Sanger Brothers Dry Goods Co. of Dallas, founded in 1868, and acquired by Federated Department Stores in 1951 and A. Harris & Co. of Dallas, founded in 1887 and acquired by Federated in 1961. It expanded into Oklahoma in the early 1980s and absorbed the Levy's stores in Tucson in 1985, before itself being merged into the Foley's division in January 1987. In 1988, following the acquisition of Federated by Campeau Corp. of Canada, the resulting Foley's organization was sold to May, which then closed the former Sanger-Harris store in downtown Dallas. In the 1990s many of its former, out-dated locations were replaced by May.
Sibley's Sibley, Lindsay & Curr Co. Rochester 1868 1992 Since 1961 a division of Associated Dry Goods Corporation and was acquired with that company in 1986 by May. It had previously absorbed the William Hengerer Co. in Buffalo in the 1981. In 1992, Sibley's, as it was known, was merged into Kaufmann's.
Steiger's Albert Steiger Co. Springfield 1894 1994 Largely acquired by May in 1994 which converted them to its Filene's and Lord & Taylor divisions.
Stewart Dry Goods The Stewart Dry Goods Co. Louisville ? 1985 Division of Associated Dry Goods Corp. In 1985 it was merged into L. S. Ayres & Co. of Indianapolis and after the May/ADG merger in 1986 its former locations were shuttered or sold to Hess's in 1987.
Strawbridge's Strawbridge & Clothier Philadelphia 1868 2006 Longtime rival of Wanamaker's and both chains refused to open stores in the same shopping centers. In 1996 the company liquidated itself and sold its 13 full-line department stores to May, which operated it as part of its Hecht's division under the name Strawbridge's. Ironically May had previously acquired the complementary Wanamaker's stores in 1995 and proceeded to rename them under the Strawbridge's moniker.
Strouss' Strouss-Hirshberg Co. Youngstown ? 1987 Long-time division of May, operating as Strouss after the purchase by May. It was merged into Kaufmann's in 1986, which promptly shut-down most of its former locations in 1987 due to the depressed Youngstown-Warren, OH/Sharon, PA regional economy and a strategic decision by May Company to focus on mall-only retail locations within the Kaufmann's division.
Thalhimer's Thalhimer Brothers Richmond 1842 1992 Acquired by Carter Hawley Hale Stores in 1978. CHH sold the chain, which by then operated throughout southern Virginia and North Carolina, in 1990 to May, which in 1992 sold stores in Charleston, South Carolina and Memphis, Tennessee to Dillard's, shut down a further 8 small, out-dated stores and merged the rest into Hecht's.
Wanamaker's John Wanamaker Co. Philadelphia 1861 1995 Purchased by Carter Hawley Hale Stores in 1978, which then sold it in 1986 to Taubman Investment Co.'s Woodward & Lothrop, Inc. unit. In 1995 May acquired the John Wanamaker stores from Woodward & Lothrop's bankruptcy estate, and renamed them Hecht's. In 1996 when May acquired the Strawbridge & Clothier stores, it consolidated its Philadelphia area stores under the Strawbridge's name, operated as part of the Hecht's division. The former John Wanamaker flagship in Center City Philadelphia was temporarily closed with the upper floors converting to unaffiliated office space and a flagship branch of Lord & Taylor re-opening in the lower floors, centered on the Center Court.
ZCMI Zions Cooperative Mercantile Institution Salt Lake City 1868 2001 Associated throughout its history with the Mormon church. In 1999 it was acquired by May and operated as part of its Meier & Frank division. In 2001, 4 locations in Idaho and St. George and Logan, Utah were sold to Dillard's and the remaining stores in Salt Lake City, Provo and Odgen, Utah were renamed Meier & Frank.


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