By the time rapper Jay-Z got into fashion, there was another Jay-Z already making the scene.
James Zimmerman got his (Wall) Street cred not by busting rhymes, but by executing the nuts and bolts of Federated’s 1992 emergence from bankruptcy and the 1994 acquisition of Macy’s.
Zimmerman succeeded Allen Questrom as chairman and chief executive officer of Federated in 1997, after nine years as chief operating officer, and retired in 2003, leaving behind a department store universe radically different than the one he entered.
The Macy’s deal turned out to be a game-changer for both Federated and the industry as a whole.
“Are we glad we did it? The answer’s not ‘Yes,’ but ‘Hell yes,’” says Zimmerman, speaking by telephone recently.
Despite having the industry on pins and needles for nearly seven months, Zimmerman recalls he felt pretty sure the deal would go through when Federated entered into negotiations to buy Macy’s, which was in bankruptcy at the time.
“We would not have initiated the actions that we took if we weren’t pretty confident that this was a good enough deal for both parties—that it eventually would happen,” he says.
During the talks, Federated bought a significant chunk of Macy’s secured debt, becoming both creditor and suitor.
Zimmerman remembers the backroom meetings with the Macy’s brass, led by then-chairman and ceo Myron E. “Mike” Ullman 3rd, who now heads J.C. Penney Co. Inc., as professional and without much ego.
“This was not dialogue between strangers,” he says, noting the players knew each other. “We just kept talking. I do remember a critical day when we were invited to come to a Macy’s board meeting to make our case—that was clearly a critical event.”
In the end, he says the deal just made sense. Together, the two companies together could simply serve the customer better.
In fact, the Macy’s of today, which also includes the Bloomingdale’s chain, was built by a series of such combinations.
“It’s a hundred different individual brands and family businesses merged into two nameplates and one company,” says Zimmerman, now 64. He lives in Cincinnati, and serves on a number of corporate and nonprofi t boards.
Out of all those businesses and nameplates, why is it that Macy’s has endured to become America’s largest department store?
“The one best nameplate was Macy’s,” says Zimmerman. “The customer recognition of the Macy’s name was measured and was found to be significant—the fireworks, the parade, 34th Street, all the history that Macy’s had, in part because of its success and in part because of its location in New York City.”
The company also owns superior private label names such as INC International Concepts and Alfani and a good bench of retail talent.
“I’m very proud of what was done then and what has been done since,” says Zimmerman. “The department stores that are left other than Macy’s are not of the same size or brand strength or financial strength…compared to Macy’s. That battle has been fought and is now completely, irrevocably over. The new chapter is, how does this entity continue to thrive and change with the times and serve the customer well enough to continue to be the winner?”
The annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in Pacific Palisades this weekend drew Kate Hudson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Laura Dern and more. See pictures of the star-studded event on WWD.com. (📷: @chelsealaurenla) #wwdeye
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye
"Nowadays when life is not so happy with everything going on in the world, I think people come to me for a little bit of whimsy and color and fun." - Designer Rebecca De Ravenel on her cult-favorite jewelry line. (📸 : @vsteves) #wwd40
“Everyone is talking about how the retail industry is struggling, but I think it’s an incredible time because brands who are doing something different and innovative are setting themselves up for the future,” said @adamgoldston, who founded the luxury athletic brand @apl with his brother @ryangoldsten. The Goldston’s are part of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables. See the rest of the list on WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
@eyeswoon blogger Athena Calderone debuted her first-ever cookbook, “Cook Beautiful,” which is heavily centered on the presentation and visual expression of food. Pictured here are her miso glazed carrots from the book. Get the recipe on WWD.com. (📷: @johnny_miller_) #wwdeye
“It’s passion that helps get anybody to a certain point and it’s what’s propelled me,” said Kith founder @ronniefieg, one of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables who are changing the face of retail, fashion and beauty. Fieg, who opened a Manhattan flagship on October 7, began his career at age 13 as a stock boy and salesman for footwear chain David Z. “I think staying true to [my] beliefs, hard work and passion have gotten me to where [Kith] is today.” See the rest of the 40 at WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
25-year-old @samweaving is about to break out this fall, starring in Netflix’s horror film “The Babysitter,” fittingly out today on Friday the 13th. That’s not the only place you’ll be seeing her, though — Weaving’s got a role Showtime’s “SMILF” and another alongside Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Though she’s got a full plate at the moment, there’s one role she’s got her eye on: Marilyn Monroe. “I’m a little too young at the moment, but it’s on my bucket list,” the actress told WWD (📷: @dandoperalski) #wwdeye
BFF's Poppy Jamie and Suki Waterhouse celebrated the launch of their bag line Pop x Suki at Nordstrom last night. "The line is really about our friendship, and how we are so different but complement each other," said Waterhouse. 👯 (📷: Katie Jones) #wwdeye
After designing the new @louisvuitton and @bulgariofficial flagships and a @chanelofficial boutique opening in Japan, @petermarinoarchitect has another project on his plate: The Lobster Club. Located in the Seagram Building, it’s the famed architect’s first restaurant project in New York, serving up modern Japanese brasserie-style cuisine. Bronze hues, bespoke material detailing, blush and chartreuse tones and a heavy emphasis on Picasso can be seen throughout. Mark your calendars for Nov. 1 for the much-anticipated opening. (📷: @clint_spaulding) #wwdeye