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Published: Tuesday, 5/11/2004

Owner of U.K. chain Selfridges joins suitors for Marshall Field's

The Toledo location is among department store properties that Target Corp. wants to sell. The Toledo location is among department store properties that Target Corp. wants to sell.

CHIAGO - At the turn of the century, Gordon Selfridge worked his way up from the ground floor to executive at Marshall Field's, eventually leaving the Chicago retailing chain in 1909 to start Selfridges, a similar retailer in the United Kingdom.

Now, more than 90 years later, the owner of Selfridges has its eye on the Marshall Field's chain.

Sources close to the bidding for Target Corp.'s department store properties said Oxford Acquisitions Ltd. - a British subsidiary of Canadian firm Wittington Canada, formed last year to bid for Selfridges - is the latest bidder to emerge for Field's.

Target put both its Field's and Mervyn's chains on the block this year after several years of disappointing results.

Interest by Selfridge's owners follows the disclosure last month that Federated Department Stores, the owner of Bloomingdale's and Macy's, is also interested in Field's.

Selfridges was once considered a high-end but out-of-touch retailer until it overhauled its four London stores in a manner similar to the recent renovation of Marshall Field's flagship store on State Street in downtown Chicago.

Selfridges created separate "brand rooms" where several high-end brands set up shop on different floors.

The strategy became the foundation for Field's State Street overhaul last year. The stores-within-the-store concept has helped drive more traffic to the legendary location over the past several months.

Selfridges, with stores in posh shopping spots in the United Kingdom, including London, also is known for its promotional flair.

Canadian billionaire Galen Weston's Oxford Acquisitions bought Selfridges for $963 million last summer after the company received a series of offers from companies.

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