Certainly by now you’ve gotten the news that Macy’s is leaving downtown Minneapolis. Even if you live in the most far-flung ’burb, you’ve heard the wailing and gnashing and rending of garments, which, by the way, probably were bought at the Mall of America. Which is why Macy’s is leaving downtown Minneapolis.
Of course, where you live isn’t far-flung to you, because you don’t regard downtown Minneapolis as the center of the observable universe. But perhaps you had a twinge of nostalgic rue, because after all, that store was Dayton’s.
And we all have nice memories of Dayton’s.
But before we get carried away in teary-eyed nostalgia, let’s remember something: Dayton’s quit on us. For decades we’ve been carrying a torch for someone who divorced us and took the house.
You can understand if the company had been steamrolled by some unstoppable conglomerate, a global retail aggregator that bought up every department store in the world so they could bide their time and close down beloved brands one at a time as they stood over a huge map of the country, laughing and lighting cigars with $100 bills.
Ha ha! We are crushing their memories of being 7 and seeing Santa on the ninth floor! O what delight to be a top-hatted plutocrat with no care for local tradition!
That wasn’t how it worked. Dayton’s bought Marshall Fields in 1990, then changed the name of all their stores in 2001, dumping the name we knew and loved for something that sounded like a military leader who commanded an army of potatoes.
Imagine that conversation in the highest of corporate echelons:
“So, we have a regional brand with great customer loyalty and a reputation that reinforces regional identity. Who’s up for tossing it out in favor of something that appeals to rich people who shop in Chicago?” (No hands go up.)
“Free Frango mints for lifetime.” (All hands go up.)
When I was growing up in Fargo, a big mall was built on the outskirts of town. All the department stores moved. Downtown curled up and died. That was sad, but the new shiny place eventually got a Dayton’s, and suddenly Fargo was a real city. You didn’t have to go to The Cities to get the latest thing. At Christmas, a box that said DAYTON’S was like SAKS FIFTH TIFFANY FABERGE.
It wasn’t that Fargo suddenly felt connected to the world; it was enough to be connected to Minneapolis.
After all these years, I still think of the Southdale Macy’s as Dayton’s. You can’t buy that kind of brand identification with coupons or promotions. It’s deep and nostalgic and rooted in history and experience, which is why I expect the next generation of marketing geniuses to screw up Target if someone decides it needs a refresh.
Let’s eliminate the vowels, call it TRGT! Pronounced Tee-Arr-Gee-Tee! Twice the number of syllables, but easier to text. BRB, OFF 2 TRGT
Little known fact: Gov. Dayton first ran for office as Mark Marshall Field and got no votes. Who, people said, is that?