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MINNEAPOLIS-Although Federated Department Stores Inc. held off on its decision late last week on whether to rebrand Marshall Field’s 62 department stores, some observers think it inevitable that the department store chain will convert the Upper Midwest chain to Macy’s, as it is doing with most of the rest of its department stores.But then, others think a name change would be foolish.

Federated said last week it intends to convert to the Macy’s brand several regional department store chains it is buying through its pending $11 billion takeover of May Department Stores Co. The conversions, which are expected to begin next year, will nearly double Macy’s national presence from about 400 to 730 locations. But the Cincinnati-based retailer said it planned to allow the Marshall Field’s retail banner to fly as is despite its massive expansion of its Macy’s brand.

Retail consultants are split on whether the name will change–some argue it makes sense for Federated to retain the valuable, upscale “Field’s” brand, while others argue it makes sense to consolidate and unify the names in Federated’s bid to create a “mega-brand” in Macy’s.

Resistance to a name change will prove to be fierce, just as it was several years ago when Target executives decided to change its “Dayton’s” and “Hudson’s” stores to “Marshall Field’s,” despite howls of protests from the locals. May bought the Minneapolis-based Marshall Field’s chain from Target Stores a year ago.

On the other hand, shoppers in the Twin Cities and Detroit have little loyalty to the Marshall Field’s brand, said Mike Scott, a retail industry veteran with United Properties in Bloomington, MN. “The brand has more appeal in Chicago than in Minneapolis or Detroit,” Scott says. “I think economics will take over and they will change it.”

One Field’s devotee from Minneapolis had already launched a Web site in a bid to save the Field’s banner. Thousands of people from all over the country had signed the site’s petition by Monday afternoon, threatening a possible boycott of Federated’s Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s stores if the corporate parent scrubs the Field’s name.

Federated said it plans to conduct more research before making a decision, including surveying Marshall Field’s customers in its key Midwestern markets.

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