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Bullock's was a department store based in Los Angeles, California. The company operated full-line department stores all across California, with some stores in Arizona and Nevada. Bullock's also operated the more upscale Bullocks Wilshire in parts of Southern California.
Bullock's was founded in 1907 at Seventh & Broadway in downtown Los Angeles by John G. Bullock, with the support of The Broadway Department Store owner Arthur Letts. In 1923, Bullock and business partner P.G. Winnett bought out Letts' interest after his death and the companies became completely separated. In 1929 Bullock & Winnett opened a luxury branch on Wilshire Boulevard, named Bullock's Wilshire.
In 1944 Bullock's acquired I. Magnin & Co., a venerable, San Francisco-based upscale specialty chain. This was followed by the acquisition of the then public-owned Bullock's/I. Magnin organization in 1964 by Federated Department Stores, much to the dismay of surviving founder P.G. Winnett, who publicly lambasted the deal (which was initiated by his own son-in-law, Bullock's President Walter W. Candy Jr.). In the 1970s, to differentiate itself from the full-line Bullock's stores, the very exclusive Wilshire location dropped its apostrophe, became Bullocks Wilshire, and began its own expansion.
Bullock's, Bullocks Wilshire, and I. Magnin retained their autonomy under Federated, as well as their carriage-trade niche, with I. Magnin expanding into the Chicago and Washington, D.C. metropolitan areas and Bullock's opening stores in Phoenix, Las Vegas and Northern California. In 1983 however, Federated shuttered the Bullock's North division and sold most of its locations to a Seattle, Washington upstart: Nordstrom. In 1988, after an ugly takeover battle between Robert Campeau and Macy's for Federated, Bullock's and I. Magnin were sold by Campeau to Macy's as a consolation prize for one billion dollars, which plunged Macy's into debt. The new owners responded by dismantling Bullock's Los Angeles corporate offices, merging Bullocks Wilshire into I. Magnin, and Bullock's into its Macy's South division, thus sending what had been Federated's most profitable division into a precipitous decline and alienating the local customers.
The end came quickly for Bullock's after Macy's filed for bankruptcy protection in 1992, with the Bullocks Wilshire stores being renamed I. Magnin two years before. I. Magnin and Bullock's were pruned of their underperforming branches, and I. Magnin itself was dissolved in January 1995 once Federated Department Stores reappeared on the scene and acquired Macy's. In 1996—following the acquisition of Broadway Stores, Inc.—Federated consolidated all its traditional department-store business in California under the Macy's nameplate, ending 89 years of Bullock's.
As of April 2011, Strategic Marks, LLC has obtained the "Filene's" trademark and plans on re-introducing the famous department store name as part of a virtual mall, along with other nostalgic stores such as The Bon Marche, The Broadway, Robinson's Department Store, Joseph Magnin, Abraham and Straus and many others. The goal is to bring back the great department stores of the 20th century, with the hopes of re-opening the actual "brick-and-mortar" stores throughout the US.
Although the Bullocks Wilshire stores was deemed the most exclusive, the full-line Bullock's stores offered upscale designers such as Giorgio Armani, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Missoni, Krizia, Valentino, Salvatore Ferragamo, Byblos, Hugo Boss and Gieves & Hawkes. Under Federated, the 22 Bullock's stores offered consistent assortments in each location, a key to the company's profit and success (exceptions were the Lakewood, West Covina, Carlsbad and Grossmont, CA locations.) Under the corporate oversight of Macy's South in Atlanta, the 22 Bullock's stores were divided into 3 competing regions: merchant offices with extremely limited control were established in Santa Ana, Sherman Oaks and the existing 800 S. Hope Street building. Macy's, now under tremendous debt, national economic issues and having alienated customers with swift and usually reactive changes to the Bullock's brand, focused and relied on South Coast Plaza, Sherman Oaks and Beverly Center to retain an upscale clientele.
- P.G.Winnet-Time Magazine archive
- Bullock's on an old post card
- Los Angeles Downtown News-Department Stores Past