Duluth Trading Treks into Travel Market

Why would a woodworking tools cataloger start a travel products catalog? In the 16 years he has run Duluth Trading Co., founder/CEO Steve Schlecht has learned a lot about traveling, and he wants to share his wisdom — and of course, sell merchandise — in the Belleville, WI-based company’s new spin-off title, Travelog.

Launched in early March, the 56-page clothing and accessories catalog mixes a wide array of travel merchandise with commentary from Schlecht that adds a personal touch. The products include a lightweight packable rain jacket for $69, a 14-in. underseat carry-on bag for $79.50, and Lowa Trekkers hiking boots for $220.

Schlecht explains in his president’s letter: “Been all over the world on business. Now I’m spending less time in the office, and [wife] Marianne and I are traveling for enjoyment. We want you to come along. In this new catalog, I want to share the things I’ve learned (often the hard way) in my travels. How to pack smart. Dressing for comfort. Dealing with the elements…”

Indeed, says Duluth Trading creative director Al Shackelford, the Schlechts have personally tested the Travelog products. “We’ve been developing items, clothing, accessories, and tools designed and tested by tradesmen. The more Steve traveled, the more he wanted to extend that type of philosophy into the world of travel.”

Traveling can be a frustrating, experience with all the regulations and flight delays, Shackelord notes: “Steve’s thought was, Let’s develop some things that are solutions for travel problems people are going to have.”

Duluth is planning four drops of Travelog this year. So far, Shackelford says, the catalog has a “pretty broad appeal. There has already been a lot of good response from items in the book. The ideas for all of these items came from the thought, Gee, I wish I had one of these or something that could do this. We’re pretty happy with this for the time being.”

Another unlikely spin-off

Shackelford says Travelog came together in about a year on the heels of another spin-off. “We launched a women’s apparel catalog last fall, and the response has been okay,” he says. “We mailed our first stand-alone women’s holiday catalog this past year. It’s a building business. Duluth has always been a masculine, tough-guy company. Womenswear is kind of an unexpected avenue for us, but we’ve heard from our customers that there’s a real need for it.”

Although Travelog is Duluth’s second spin-off in the past two years, Shackelford doesn’t envision any more new titles in the near future. “Many companies sucked the juice out of their core business by doing too many spin-offs,” he says. “They took their eye off the ball. We have a very strong core business.”

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