The May Department Stores Company

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This article is about the former store holding company that merged with Federated Department Stores, Inc. For the related Southern California based department stores, see May Company California. For the unrelated Mays department stores in New York City, see J.W. Mays.
The May Department Stores Company
Industry Retail
Fate Merged with Federated Department Stores, Inc.
Successor Federated Department Stores, Inc.
Founded 1877
Defunct 2005
Headquarters Leadville, Colorado (1877-1888)
Denver, Colorado (1888-1905)
St. Louis, Missouri (1905-2005)
Key people
David May (founder)
Morton May (chairman, 1951-1967)
Products Clothing, footwear, accessories, bedding, furniture, jewelry, beauty products, and housewares
Subsidiaries Famous-Barr
The Jones Store
Lord & Taylor
L.S. Ayres
Marshall Field's
Meier & Frank
May Cohens/May Florida
O'Neil's (M. O'Neil Co.)
May Company Cleveland

The May Department Stores Company was an American department store holding company, formerly headquartered in downtown St. Louis, Missouri.[1] It was founded by David May in 1877,[2] and merged with Federated Department Stores (now Macy's, Inc.) in 2005.

This company was only a holding company that bought, sold, and merged regional department stores, such as Foley's and L.S. Ayres. During most of its history, the operations of the various divisions were kept separate and had their own buyers and credit cards, which were not accepted at other May owned stores. There were times in which two different May's own stores had operated in the same geographical market but were aimed at different customers. Most decisions for each of the regional store companies were made by management at the local headquarters and not by the holding company in St. Louis.

Some of the regional stores shared names that were similar to the parent company, such as Los Angeles based May Company California, but all it had in common with parent was that they were headed by a different member of the May family as the president of their respective regional store chain and were separate legal entities.


Christmas advertisement for Hamburger's Department Store, Los Angeles, 1905
  • 1877: Founded in Leadville during the Colorado silver rush.
  • 1889: Headquarters moved to Denver.
  • 1905: Headquarters moved to St. Louis.[3]
  • 1910: Officially incorporated as The May Department Stores Company.[3]
  • 1911: The Famous Clothing Store (owned by May) and The William Barr Dry Goods Company merged to create Famous-Barr.[3]
  • 1912: May acquires the M. O'Neil Co. (O'Neil's) department store of Akron, Ohio.
  • 1923: May acquires A. Hamburger & Sons Co. in Los Angeles and renames it May Company California.
  • 1946: May acquires the Kaufmann's chain based in Pittsburgh, retaining it as a separate division.[3]
  • 1947: May acquires Strouss-Hirshberg Co. based in Youngstown, Ohio, retaining it as a separate division and changing the name to Strouss.
  • 1956: May acquires The Daniels & Fisher Company of Denver, merging it with May stores in the area to create a new May D&F division.[4]
  • 1958: May acquires the Cohen Bros. Department Store in Jacksonville, Florida, turning it into the May Cohens chain.[5]
  • 1959: May acquires The Hecht Company of Baltimore, adding it as a new division.[4]
  • 1965: May acquires G. Fox & Co.
  • 1966: May acquires the Meier & Frank chain based in Portland, Oregon, adding it as a new division.[4]
  • David's grandson Morton May became the chairman in 1951 and headed the company for 16 years. Morton May was active in St. Louis civic affairs and was a patron of the St. Louis Art Museum.
  • Venture Stores was founded in 1968 when Target co-founder John F. Geisse went to work for May Department Stores. Under an antitrust settlement reached with the Department of Justice, May was unable to acquire any more retail chains at the time, and the department store company needed a way to compete against the emerging discount store chains.
  • 1970s: May sold the 70-store Consumers Distributing chain of catalog merchants to the Canadian Consumers Distributing company.[6] It closed its stores in 1996.
  • 1986: May acquires the Associated Dry Goods holding company and its chains (including Loehmann's, Lord & Taylor, and Caldor), the largest-ever retail acquisition in history at that time.[7]
  • 1988: May acquires Foley's in Houston and Filene's in Boston from Federated Department Stores.[8]
  • 1993: May Company California and JW Robinsons merged to form Robinsons-May.
  • 1996: May acquires the Strawbridge's chain based in Philadelphia.[9]
  • 1998: May acquires The Jones Store chain based in Kansas City, Missouri.[9]
  • 1999: May acquires Zions Cooperative Mercantile Institution based in Salt Lake City, folding it into the Meier & Frank subsidiary.[9]
  • 2004: May Department Stores takes over the Marshall Field's chain from Target Corporation.[10]
  • 2005: May is purchased by Federated Department Stores for $11 billion in stock, with all former May divisions being folded into Federated's various Macy's branches.[10][11]
  • 2006: Over 400 former May stores, with their wide variety of long-standing brand names, are consolidated and renamed as Macy's. In addition, Federated sells off three former May chains (David's Bridal, Lord & Taylor and Priscilla of Boston).[10]
  • 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 Strauss 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.[12]

May Centers[edit]

The company previously developed malls under the name May Centers, Inc. This company was renamed CenterCal in 1993.[13] The malls that May built included:

Merger of Federated and May[edit]

On February 28, 2005, Federated Department Stores, Inc. announced that they would acquire the May company in a deal that would create the nation's second largest department store chain with over 1,000 stores and $30 billion in annual sales. To help finance the May Company deal, Federated agreed to sell its combined proprietary credit card business to Citigroup as well as May's bridalwear business.

The Federated/May merger was completed on August 30, 2005 after an assurance agreement was reached with the State Attorneys General of New York, California, Massachusetts, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Federated announced plans to close 76 store locations over the ensuing year, having pledged in its anti-trust settlement to sell most of them in the above-mentioned states as viable businesses, with preference being given to a group of thirteen competitors.

By September 2006, all of the May regional nameplates, except for the Lord & Taylor chain, ceased to exist as Federated consolidated its operations under the Macy's mastheads including the stores most famous names Marshall Field's, Filene's, and Kaufmann's, as well as the last nameplate to still have the May name (Robinson's-May). All locations that were not sold off were rebranded as Macy's, except for one Hecht's location in Friendship Heights. That was rebuilt,and rebranded as Bloomingdale's. In advance of the retail consolidation, May's credit call center in Lorain, Ohio, ceased operations on July 1, 2006. Lord & Taylor, the lone department store division not to be largely converted to the Macy's nameplate, was sold to a group of investors at NRDC Equity Partners, LLC for $1.2 billion in October 2006. David's Bridal and After Hours Formalwear were also soon sold thereafter.


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