APPAREL: market leaders – SPIEGEL

Ten years ago, the Spiegel catalog was riding the working women’s wave into the ’90s. Sales soared for the self-dubbed “department store in print” as it catered to the needs of the time-poor shopper. But by 1995, the cataloger had practically been swallowed up by a tsunami. Sales flattened, profits dried up, it was overmailing, and it had more or less lost touch with its customer. Although Spiegel retained its fashion sense, it failed to offer much new for women. Meanwhile, catalogers that were either more fashion-forward, such as J. Jill and Boston Proper, or more conservative, such as Lands’ End and J. Crew, enjoyed greater success.

But for nearly two years now, Spiegel has been on the comeback trail. As part of a company-wide reorganization, the mailer has cut costs, pared back circulation, tightened up its big-book catalogs, and emphasized customers’ lifestyle needs more than it had in the past. As a result, Spiegel has enjoyed eight straight profitable quarters. It also has a fully developed Website, having rechanneled marketing dollars away from failed efforts, such as a recent catalog venture in Canada.

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