At deadline

Jan 01, 1999 10:30 PM  By

FINGERHUT CONTINUES ITS SPENDING SPREE In one week, general merchandise cataloger Fingerhut Cos. acquired a $100 million-plus cataloger and equity interests in two Websites. On Dec. 15, Fingerhut announced a definitive agreement to buy women’s apparel cataloger Bedford Fair Industries, which produces the Bedford Fair Lifestyles and Willow Ridge titles. Bedford Fair, which filed for reorganization under Chapter 11 in September 1997, will operate as a freestanding company reporting through Arizona Mail Order, the $140 million multititle mailer Fingerhut had bought during the summer. During the second half of ’98, Fingerhut had also acquired $180 million general merchandise catalog Popular Club Plan from J. Crew Group. The day before announcing the Bedford Fair deal, Fingerhut announced it had bought 19.9% of FreeShop International, an online buyers club that also makes trial offers available to Web surfers. And just days earlier, Fingerhut acquired 19.9% of MountainZone.com, which sells mountain sports merchandise, from Zone Network. The investments follow Fingerhut’s purchase of nearly 20% of online floral marketer PC Flowers this past July.

BARNETT BUYS U.S. LOCK On Dec. 14, business-to-business cataloger Barnett, which sells plumbing, electrical, and hardware supplies, bought the assets of $27 million cataloger U.S. Lock from Waxman Industries for $33 million. U.S. Lock, which sells hardware to locksmiths and other security installers, “is a good strategic fit for us,” says Barnett CEO William Pray. “It is a company with strong management and good growth potential.” U.S. Lock, which employs an outbound telesales staff of 19, will operate as a stand-alone business for the time being, “but somewhere down the road, we may begin to integrate our warehouses and administrative staff,” Pray says.

PETALS CATALOG AGREES TO BE SOLD In December, home accessories supplier Interiors agreed to buy $42 million silk flowers manufacturer/cataloger Petals for an undisclosed sum. While Petals is Interiors’ sixth acquisition since February 1998, it is the $100 million marketer’s first catalog. Petals’ Website also represents a new distribution channel for Interiors.

SUCCESSORIES CONSIDERING ACQUISITION BIDS Motivational products manufacturer/cataloger Successories has retained investment bank William Blair & Co. to evaluate unsolicited acquisition bids and investment inquiries it has received, confirms CFO Steven Kuptsis. Successories made the announcement at the same time it released its third-quarter financials; the company posted a net loss of $1.5 million, compared to net income of $522,000 for the previous third quarter. Sales dropped 9%, to $12.4 million, following the end of Successories’ kiosk program with retail chain Waldenbooks.

EDISON BROTHERS LOOKS TO UNLOAD CATALOG Apparel cataloger/retailer Edison Brothers Stores announced it’s looking to sell Repp By Mail, a big-and-tall men’s apparel catalog. The $950 million company, which emerged from Chapter 11 in October 1997, says it plans to concentrate on its retail division, which includes the 5-7-9, Coda, and Bakers chains.

USPS RELEASES NEW RATE DATA ONLINE The U.S. Postal Service has released on its Website an advance copy of its Domestic Mail Manual, containing all rates and classification specifications for the rate schedule that takes effect Jan. 10. At that time, postal rates for catalogers will increase an average of 4.5%. This is the first time the USPS has put an advance copy of its Domestic Mail Manual online. The manual is available by clicking the “What’s New” link on the Postal Explorer Website, pe.usps.gov.

FURTHERMORE…Having pushed out vice president of sales William Ferry at the same time it forced CEO Mike Smith to resign at the end of October, the Lands’ End board on Dec. 10 hired Mindy Meads to replace Ferry. Meads had worked for the casual apparel cataloger from 1991 to 1996 as executive vice president of merchandising….Teen clothing cataloger Delia’s announced in mid-December that it will likely spin off its Internet business in an initial public offering. Internet sales make up 5%-6% of Delia’s total revenue, up from 2%-3% in June, chairman/CEO Stephen Kahn said in a statement….Creative Computers’ online offshoot, Ubid, closed its initial public offering on Dec. 9, netting $25 million from the sale of some 1.8 million shares of Ubid common stock.