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ATLANTA Long before it was renamed Macy the department store of choice here was Rich Opening just after the Civil War, it drew generations of Atlantans with its coconut cake and the Pink Pig, a Christmastime children train.

Now, after years of ownership by New York based Macy the old Rich stores are feeling a bit more like Atlanta again. The generic display near an entrance at the Cumberland Mall store, for example, has been replaced with a rack of white satin suits yes, even in October.

have a lot of mega churches here in Atlanta, and for first Sunday, the mothers of the church wear white all year long, said Terry McDonald, a human resources manager for Macy Cumberland and surrounding stores, referring to a church service held once every month.

After decades of acquiring, consolidating and centralizing, the department store chain is rediscovering and financially exploiting its multiple local roots, advancing a trend that is quickly being adopted by other retailers like Saks Fifth Avenue and Best Buy.

It is a lesson many companies overlooked in the last 30 years as they rolled smaller stores into huge national brands, and headquarters mandated what the outlets in Biloxi or Boise should sell.

But years of economic turmoil for the retail industry have helped refresh memories. While many national retailers continue to see sales declines in a sour economy, Macy says its first full year of local has helped increase sales significantly and the entire Macy performance, according to its chairman and chief executive, Terry J. Lundgren.

Macy is on track to add $1 billion in sales in 2010 from stores open more than a year, he said. The retailer had $23.5 billion in sales in 2009.

have research information, and we think about household income and population size, but I think it much more accurate to have people living in the marketplace tell you, is who shopping in my store, Mr. Lundgren said.

The trend leaves some shoppers cold Macy makeover of stores here has not stopped the longing for the real Rich among many Atlantans but retail analysts say stores of all types are increasingly experimenting with local assortments to spur sales wherever they can.

prior years, with the recession, it became all about cost cutting no matter what, said Esteban Bowles, a retail consultant with A. T. Kearney. companies are seeing the light and looking for the rebound. tested its new local approach in a handful of stores in 2008, introducing it in all 810 stores last year. In essence, Macy requires sales clerks and store managers to examine the local population almost like anthropologists studying, for example, what churchgoing black women here in Atlanta shop for compared with the shopping habits of Microsoft wives, as employees call one segment of shoppers in the store in Bellevue, Wash.

At the same time, the retailer doubled its staff overseeing store assortments and decreased the stores that staff members dealt with. It required the people responsible for merchandise assortment to visit stores daily, added log books at each register where sales clerks entered suggestions from shoppers, and introduced a review process so the staff visiting stores could make recommendations to buyers.

There are items that would fit in an olden days department store. The old Marshall Field store in Chicago sells Frango chocolates, boxed as they were in the past. In the Northwest, at Bon March Frangos come wrapped in cellophane and are packaged in an octagonal box, the traditional presentation in Seattle. In Minnesota this year, stores began carrying krumkake irons, a Scandinavian baking tool.

But localization is not just about turning back the clock. When many of the regional chains were at their height, shoppers tended to be middle class white women. Now, they often are not.

In Bellevue, Wash., for example, fewer than 4 percent of residents were Asian in 1980, when the Macy store there was a Bon March The most recent Census Bureau survey showed the Asian population in Bellevue was 23.2 percent, attributable in part to the tech explosion in the area.

So the Bellevue Macy has added more extra small and small sizes including size 0s in women clothing and 36 in men suits. And it got rid of its big and tall section. It also changed the jewelry selection to appeal to the tastes of Indian customers more gold and precious gems and less silver and doubled its sock department because of the many Microsoft visitors who travel and apparently forget their socks.

need to be able to target the pockets of consumers that exist in different shapes and forms in each of the communities, said Mr. Bowles, the retail consultant. At the Macy in the Cumberland Mall here, localization has taken an entirely different look.

Cumberland is in the top tenth of all Macy stores for hat sales, and in the men department there are hats in virtually every section, from wool fedoras to Polo baseball caps. In the last year or so, the store has doubled both the space and the sales of men hats.

fedora real popular, too, because you see Ne Yo in it, said Leigh Ott, the Macy Cumberland store manager, referring to the rhythm and blues singer. African American customers, they like the fashion, they like what new. Cumberland store also tripled the square footage of the big and tall department and has added curvy signs throughout the store to alert women shoppers to different fits. It also carries a special brand of jeans, PZI, that is for curvier women.

One popular men brand just in the Macy Cumberland store is Akoo, designed by the Atlanta rapper T. I. One Akoo lime green shirt is available only in sizes XL to 4XL.

customer isn just big, he also tall, said Leia Bangs, district vice president for the Macy stores in western Atlanta.

In shoes, the Atlanta store displays tables of low heeled black leather pumps, because Delta Air Lines, a major Atlanta employer, requires its flight attendants to wear heels of 0.5 to 3 inches.

And in the home department, the store has stocked up on a baking dish with a warmer stand and 34 quart stock pots ( your Sunday church functions, Ms. McDonald explained).

Peter Sachse, chief marketing officer of Macy has seen the changes from both sides; he had been the president of Bon March in the Northwest before it was acquired by Macy He said what makes this attempt at localization known within the company as My Macy different from running a local department store has been the systematic collection of information.

never had the organizational structure in the field that was feeding back to us constantly, Mr. Sachse said. you know the colors of the local high school are maroon and gold, and I need maroon and gold clothes because that what they wear to the football games on Saturday? for some shoppers, Macy will always be that New York store a mind set that even the most aggressive and targeted retailing might never overcome.

don know what it was about the Bon it just seemed to have a more personal touch, said Maureen Haley, 54, of Kenmore, Wash.
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