Using acquisitions and internal growth to build his business, Fred Lazarus Jr. turned his Federated Department Stores into the biggest enterprise of its kind in America. The retail operation, which includes Bloomingdale's, Bullocks, and Filene's, targets the middle class with eye-catching displays, seasonal fashions, and well-stocked inventories offered at the lowest prices possible.
Moreover, he is credited with establishing in American stores the merchandising standard of presenting garments by size with style color options.
The young Lazarus learned his trade at F. & R. Lazarus, the modest, family-owned department store. He studied at Ohio State University but left almost immediately to work at the family store full time at age 18.
Under Lazarus, business expanded, most notably around 1929-1930. The year saw the merger of the family business with New York's Bloomingdale's, Brooklyn's Abraham & Straus, and Boston's Filene's. The new conglomerate was called Federated Department Stores and had Lazarus as chairman.
Fred Lazarus is credited with establishing today's US merchandizing standard of arranging garments by size, with selections of style and color, and then price, rather than vice versa as was the practice in the mid-1930s. Lazarus adopted this merchandizing standard for his stores after observing its practice in Paris.
By 1939, he had already amassed great financial and political power. Lazarus was able to convince the President of the United States at the time, Franklin D. Roosevelt, to move Thanksgiving, making it officially the fourth Thursday in November. This prolonged the time for Christmas shopping and, in effect, boosted revenues for the American retail industry. Congress made the arrangement official in 1941.
Lazarus continued to nurse the growth of Federated via acquisitions and mergers, particularly through the 1980s. The company has since moved its headquarters from Columbus to Cincinnati and runs around 1,000 stores across America. Many of these stores bear the nameplates of either Bloomingdale's or Macy's.
Full name: Fred Lazarus Jr.
Birth date: 1884
Birthplace: Columbus, Ohio
Company: Federated Department Stores Inc.
Key success traits: Boldness in adopting new merchandising and business practices; audacity to demand change.