NEW YORK — Dillard’s Inc. could be next in line for acquisition now that Target Corp. has put Marshall Field’s up for sale, said A.G. Edwards & Sons analyst Robert Buchanan on Monday.

“Whoever doesn’t buy Marshall Field’s will in our view feel the need to purchase Dillard’s lest it lose out in the ‘size war’ of department store retailing,” wrote Buchanan in a research note to investors. “Although, in the past, Dillard’s management has resisted takeover feelers, our sources indicate that, of late, its resolve has lessened.”

Dillard’s could not be reached for comment.

Additionally, Buchanan said his sources over the weekend indicated that May or Federated could end up buying Marshall Field’s but Federated does not have an edge, as he had earlier believed.

Losing out on the Marshall Field’s acquisition would be more serious for May, Buchanan said, since it already trails Federated by about $2.2 billion in annual revenues. Buchanan added that if a deal for Dillard’s were to get done, the purchaser would “most likely sell some overlap properties to other department store operators.”

Based on his theory that Marshall Field’s could put Dillard’s in play, Buchanan raised his rating on the regional department store chain to “buy” from “hold.”

Over the past five years, Dillard’s has seen its compound annual profits fall by more than half, or 51.6 percent, to $84 million last year from $106 million in 2000, while its compound annual revenues have regressed 3.1 percent to $7.86 billion from $8.92 billion over the same period.

And, although Dillard’s comparable-store sales — considered by many to be the most important measure of a retailer’s health — have posted gains for three straight months, overall, the company’s comps have declined in eight of the last 12 months.

Dillard’s is closely held by its founding family. Collectively, chief executive officer William Dillard II, president Alex Dillard and executive vice president Mike Dillard own more than 81 percent of the outstanding voting stock of corporate parent W.D. Company Inc.

— Dan Burrows

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