The May Department Stores Company

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The May Department Stores Company
Founded1877; 145 years ago (1877) in Leadville, Colorado, U.S.
FounderDavid May
DefunctAugust 30, 2005; 16 years ago (2005-08-30)
FateAcquisition/merger with Federated Department Stores (Macy's).
SuccessorFederated Department Stores aka Macy's, Inc.
Area served
United States
  • Clothing
  • footwear
  • accessories
  • bedding
  • furniture
  • jewelry
  • beauty products
  • housewares

The May Department Stores Company was an American department store holding company, formerly headquartered in downtown St. Louis, Missouri.[1] It was founded in Leadville, Colorado, by David May in 1877, moving to St. Louis in 1905.[2] After many changes in the retail industry, the company 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. The latter were not accepted at other May-owned stores. At times, two different May's stores operated in the same geographical market, but they 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. All it had in common with the parent was that these stores were headed by a different member of the May family as the president of their respective regional store chain. They were separate legal entities.


Christmas advertisement for Hamburger's Department Store, Los Angeles, 1905
The 1939 Streamline Moderne style May Company Wilshire building in Los Angeles. It was later adapted for use as The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

In 1877, The May Department Stores Company was founded in Leadville during the Colorado silver rush. In 1889, the headquarters moved to Denver.

In 1899, May acquired the E. R. Hull & Dutton Co. of Cleveland, renaming it The May Company, Cleveland, later named the May Company Ohio.

In 1905, the headquarters moved to St. Louis.[3] In 1910, the business was officially incorporated as The May Department Stores Company.[3] In 1911, The Famous Clothing Store (owned by May) and The William Barr Dry Goods Company merged to create Famous-Barr.[3]

In 1912, May acquired the M. O'Neil Co. (O'Neil's) department store of Akron, Ohio.

In 1923, May acquired A. Hamburger & Sons Co. in Los Angeles and renames it May Company California.[4]

In 1946, May acquired the Kaufmann's chain based in Pittsburgh, retaining it as a separate division.[3] In 1947, May acquires Strouss-Hirshberg Co. based in Youngstown, Ohio, retaining it as a separate division and changing the name to Strouss.

In 1956, May acquired The Daniels & Fisher Company of Denver, merging it with May stores in the area to create a new May-Daniels & Fisher division.[5]

In 1958, May acquired the Cohen Brothers Department Store in Jacksonville, Florida, turning it into the May Cohens chain.[6]

In 1959, May acquired The Hecht Company of Baltimore, adding it as a new division.[5] In 1965, May acquires G. Fox & Co out of Hartford, Connecticut.

In 1966, May acquired the Meier & Frank chain based in Portland, Oregon, adding it as a new division.[5] 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.

In 1968, Venture Stores was founded when Target co-founder John F. Geisse went to work for May Department Stores.[citation needed] 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.

In 1972, May founded Robinson's of Florida.

In August 1978, May sold the 70-store Consumers chain of catalog merchants to the Canadian Consumers Distributing.[7][8] It closed its stores in 1996.[9]

In 1986, May acquired 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.[10]

In 1987, May renamed the five-unit May-Cohens as May Florida and sells the ten stores from Robinson’s of Florida to Maison Blanche so as to give them a foothold in the Floridan market. Stores at Tyrone Square, Orlando Fashion Square, WestShore Plaza, Altamonte Mall, University Square Mall, Countryside Mall, Southgate Plaza, Edison Mall, Coastland Center, and The Florida Mall were included in the deal along with a proposed 11th store at Lakeland Square Mall. May acquired Foley's in Houston and Filene's in Boston from Federated Department Stores whereas May Florida was also acquired by Maison Blanche. As a result, May withdrew from Florida by closing the Gateway location and converting those at Roosevelt Square, Regency Square, Volusia Mall, and Orange Park Mall under the Maison Blanche nameplate. [11]

In 1993, May Company California and JW Robinsons merged to form Robinsons-May.

In 1995, May acquired the John Wanamaker chain based in Philadelphia. In 1996, May acquires the Strawbridge's chain based in Philadelphia.[12]

In 1998, May acquired The Jones Store chain based in Kansas City, Missouri.[12]

In 1999, May acquired Zions Cooperative Mercantile Institution based in Salt Lake City, folding it into the Meier & Frank subsidiary.[12]

In 2000, May Department Stores purchases David's Bridal.[13]

In 2004, May Department Stores takes over the Marshall Field's chain from Target Corporation.[14]

In 2005, May was acquired by Federated Department Stores for $11 billion in stock, with all former May divisions being folded into Federated's various Macy's branches.[14][15]

In 2006, over 400 former May stores, with their wide variety of long-standing brand names, were consolidated and renamed as Macy's. In addition, Federated sells off three former May chains (David's Bridal, Lord & Taylor and Priscilla of Boston).[14]

Merger of Federated and May[edit]

On February 28, 2005, Federated Department Stores, Inc. announced that they would acquire the May company for $11 billion.[16] To help finance the May Company deal, Federated agreed to sell its combined proprietary credit card business to Citigroup.[17] The merger was completed on August 30, 2005[18] after an assurance agreement was reached with the State Attorneys General of New York, California, Massachusetts, Maryland and Pennsylvania.[19]

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 (Robinsons-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.[20] David's Bridal and After Hours Formalwear were sold in November 2006.[21]

May Centers[edit]

Around the beginning of the twentieth century, the May Department Stores Company created a real estate division that handled the purchase of land and the construction of the buildings that would house their new stand-alone department stores. Starting in 1947, when they wanted to open a new store for their May Company California division, May entered the new open-air shopping center development business with the construction of what would later become the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza in Los Angeles.[22] After that time, May became a major shopping center, and later mall developer when they began to develop new malls to house their newly proposed department stores.

During the mid-1980s, the company noticed that their stock was vastly undervalued and therefore was at risk of becoming a hostile takeover target.[23][24] May Department Stores needed to re-purchase some of its company's stock to increase the share price. To accomplish this, they needed to obtain cash quickly, which they did by making a deal with Prudential Insurance in which the insurance company gave May $550 million in exchange for 50% ownership of May Centers.[25][26] In 1992, Prudential purchased the rest of May Centers and renamed the company CenterMark.[26][27]


  1. ^ "Federated and May Announce Merger; $17 billion transaction to create value for customers, shareholders. Archived July 16, 2012, at" Business Wire, 28 February 2005. Retrieved on August 19, 2009.
  2. ^ The Drive to Differentiate - Macy's, Inc Archived April 8, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ a b c d The Drive to Differentiate - Macy's, Inc Archived March 13, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ "Asher Hamburger & Family". Jewish Museum of the American West. Retrieved April 10, 2018.
  5. ^ a b c The Drive to Differentiate - Macy's, Inc Archived March 13, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "50 years ago this week". Financial News & Daily Record. November 24, 2008.
  7. ^ Sweetman, Keri; Harrington, Denise (18 November 1981). "600 to lose jobs as Bay closes Shop-Rite stores". Ottawa Citizen. p. 3.
  8. ^ RECKERT, CLARE M. (March 22, 1979). "EARNINGS". The New York Times.
  9. ^ "Consumers Distributing closes the book on catalogue shopping". CBC News. August 9, 1996. Retrieved August 10, 2017.
  10. ^ The Drive to Differentiate - Macy's, Inc Archived March 13, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ Foley's INTERVIEW Newsletter, Vol. 19, No. 6 January/February 2006
  12. ^ a b c The Drive to Differentiate - Macy's, Inc Archived March 13, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ |title=32 The May Department Stores Company to Acquire David's Bridal, Inc. |website= PR Newswire |date= July 3, 2000 Archived October 26, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ a b c The Drive to Differentiate - Macy's, Inc Archived January 12, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ Sorkin, Andrew Ross; Rozhon, Tracie (February 28, 2005). "2 Big Retailers Agree To Merge For $11 Billion". New York Times.
  16. ^ Byron, Ellen (28 February 2005). "Federated Agrees To Acquire May In $11 Billion Deal". Retrieved 22 August 2018.
  17. ^ "Department store credit business sold to Citigroup". tribunedigital-chicagotribune. Retrieved 2018-08-22.
  18. ^ "FTC Issues Statement on Closure of Federated/May Investigation". Federal Trade Commission. 2005-08-30. Retrieved 2018-08-22.
  19. ^ Sorkin, Andrew Ross; Rozhon, Tracie (2005-02-28). "2 Big Retailers Agree to Merge for About $11 Billion". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-12-07.
  20. ^ "Exclusive: Hudson's Bay seeks to revive Lord & Taylor's fortunes". Reuters. 2018-05-08. Retrieved 2019-04-19.
  21. ^ "David's Bridal ties knot in a $750-million deal". Los Angeles Times. 2006-11-18. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2019-04-19.
  22. ^ Folkart, Burt A. (April 23, 1992). "David May II; Scion Helped Family Store Chain Grow". Los Angeles Times.
  23. ^ Barmash, Isadore (July 20, 1984). "May Stores As A Target". New York Times.
  24. ^ "May Stores Stock Purchased The May Department Stores Company, which has been a rumored takeover target, said the Crown Books Corporation and certain affiliates had purchased fewer than 1% of May's common shares. James Abrams, vice president for corporate communications, said We don't know of any interest by Crown to purchase more of May's shares.". New York Times. February 2, 1985.
  25. ^ Keppel, Bruce (August 18, 1988). "$550-Million Deal to Help May Stores Fend Off Takeovers". Los Angeles Times.
  26. ^ a b Apodaca, Patrice (August 4, 1992). "Making Over Topanga Plaza : Retail: The successful Woodland Hills center undergoes a $45-million renovation now rather than suffer a possible dip in sales". Los Angeles Times.
  27. ^ "May Centers now called CenterMark". Southeast Missourian. May 3, 1992. p. 1D.

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