US department store operator Federated Department Stores Inc says it will add about 330 Macy's locations nationwide in 2006 as it converts regional department store nameplates to be acquired through its pending merger with The May Department Stores Company.

Federated's chairman, president and chief executive officer, Terry Lundgren, said: "This decision to expand the Macy's brand was based on careful study and new research on customer preferences in May Company communities.

"Customers have told us they want the fashion and affordable luxury they find in Macy's stores. We have strengthened the Macy's brand with distinctive assortments, simplified pricing, an improved shopping experience and enhanced marketing."

In conjunction with the conversion process, Federated said it has identified 68 duplicate locations in 66 malls that will be divested starting in 2006. Locations identified for divestiture accounted for approximately USD2 billion of 2004 sales.

A small number of stores are also are being studied for potential conversion to the Bloomingdale's nameplate.

Once duplicate stores are divested, the remaining Macy's in that location will include employees from both locations.

Westfield Group, the number one shopping mall owner globally, said today it is holding discussions with Federated to acquire 12 stores.

Westfield is reportedly considering buying stores in company-owned malls located in California, Ohio, Connecticut and Maryland.

The current plan is to operate all May Company stores under their existing nameplates at least through the 2005 holiday shopping season. Divestiture of duplicate May Company and Macy's locations will begin in 2006. They will be offered for sale to landlords, developers and interested third parties.

Shareholders of Federated and May Company have approved the merger, which is expected to close in the third quarter of 2005, pending completion of regulatory review.