Thursday, September 5

Name Game - John pointed me to this article in the Washington Post about how the natural foods market Fresh Fields is finally changing its name to reflect its corporate parent, Whole Foods. The explanation of how the conversion of Mrs. Gooch's stores to Whole Foods floundered helped me to understand some of the rationale for keeping the status quo.

The issue of store naming has always fascinated for me, especially in the arena of grocery stores. I mean, I understand why some large retail corporate parents distinguish between different brands, like Gap Inc's Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy stores. Each of these concepts is slightly different and has a slightly different target audience. But when it comes to grocery stores, the notion of retaining the old name makes less sense to me. Why does the Safeway Corporation need to print different bags and nametags for Safeway, Vons and Dominick's stores when they basically carry the same items? It's even more confusing when you look at Kroger, who operates under the Kroger, Ralphs, Smith's, King Soopers, Cala Foods and Bell Markets names--and that only begins to scratch the surface of the names in their stable.

Maybe I'm too well informed of a consumer, but it came as no shock to me that Hechts and Lord & Taylor are both operated by May Company. May also operates under the Filenes and Robinsons-May brands. But clearly, somewhere along the road, the powers that be determined that each department store name had a slightly different cache with customers and decided to retain the names even as consolidation happened. Same goes for Macy's, Bloomingdale's and The Bon Marché, all run by Federated.

If nothing else, I suppose it's a way of helping us to pretend the world won't one day be dominated by a single corporation that owns everything.