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YOUNGSTOWN Kaufmann's to keep name despite consolidation



Published: Sat, August 10, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



A May company spokeswoman said local stores and the North Jackson distribution center will be unaffected.

By CYNTHIA VINARSKY

VINDICATOR BUSINESS WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- The Kaufmann's name will stay, even though May Department Stores is consolidating the longtime Pittsburgh-based department store chain with its Boston-based Filene's store chain.

Kaufmann's stores in the Mahoning and Shenango valleys and the Kaufmann's Distribution Center in North Jackson will continue to operate and their name will not change, said Sharon Bateman, vice president of corporate communications for May.

Locally, Kaufmann's has stores in Niles, Boardman and Hermitage, Pa.

"This transition should be seamless for the customer," she said. "They should see no change. The merchandise mix, the emphasis on customer service should remain absolutely the same."

May, which is one of the country's largest retailers with 436 department stores nationwide, announced three months ago that it planned to combine eight retail store divisions into six. The company said the changes, which are taking effect this month, would save about $60 million per year, or 13 cents per share.

Hardest hit

Downtown Pittsburgh, which was headquarters for Kaufmann's, took the brunt of the layoffs from the Filene's consolidation.

Kaufmann's employed 1,200 in its Pittsburgh central office, which closed a week ago. As many as 500 of those workers were placed elsewhere in the company or in other companies, she said.

The retailer also combined its Los Angeles-based Robinsons-May and its Portland, Ore.-based Meier & amp; Frank divisions. Meier & amp; Frank's central office in Portland was also closed.

Filene's corporate office, which had 44 stores in 15 markets before the reorganization, now oversees 96 stores, including 52 Kaufmann's stores. The division covers the Northeast and Great Lakes regions.

Robinsons-May has 71 stores in the Northwest and West.

Bateman said she's confident that the Kaufmann's name will survive the consolidation. "May has always believed in the strength of our regional names," she said, noting that the company has 11 store names in operation around the country.

Unchanged names

Three other store names have been retained, even though they were merged under the management of another store chain several years ago. Strawbridge's in the Philadelphia area, L.S. Ayres and The Jones Store in the Midwest all fall under that category, she said.

But many Mahoning Valley residents remember what happened when May merged Kaufmann's with its Youngstown-based Strouss department store division in January 1986.

Strouss had a central office in Youngstown, which was closed, idling 400, and the retailer shut down five area Strouss stores within a year, including its main store in downtown Youngstown and smaller stores in Sharon and New Castle, Pa., Liberty and Austintown.

In September 1986, about nine months after the merger was announced, May gave all its former Strouss stores the Kaufmann's name.

vinarsky@vindy.com




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