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EDDIE BAUER’S PUFFED-UP ANNIVERSARY

WE’RE ALL ABOUT RECOGNIZING THE MILESTONE ANNIVERSARIES of companies in the multichannel selling industry. But a release issued last month touting the 68th anniversary of Eddie Bauer inventing and patenting the first quilted down jacket in the U.S. is a dubious achievement. Really? Sixty-eight? They couldn’t wait two years for the big 7-0 to make this type of announcement? The release also points out the Eddie Bauer’s twice-certified, premium down has the highest fill power and most accurate weather ratings to better provide high-efficiency insulation. Those are compelling arguments for down products — a lot more compelling than celebrating a 68-year-old patent.

VERMONT COUNTRY STORE CLOTHESLINES LAUNDRY SNOBS

THE VERMONT COUNTRY STORE HAS A MESSAGE TO CONSUMERS: consider putting up a clothesline to dry your laundry — especially if you live in places where clotheslines are prohibited. The merchant’s Fall 2008 catalog and Website includes an editorial “promoting a new kind of civil disobedience to save energy and help the planet” in encouraging clotheslines.

“Is it not the height of snobbery to declare hanging clothes out to dry illegal?” the editorial asks, noting that someone years ago in some rich, exclusive development decided that clotheslines were déclassé and declared them illegal. “Such ordinances and association rules fly in the face of efficient energy use and it’s time to get rid of them.”

The company says it’s not trying to shame anyone into getting rid of their dryer, “but we are trying to gain the right for anyone to put up a clothesline and dry their laundry the old-fashioned way. It’s not only frugal, but a commonsense way to reduce our impact on the planet.”

We agree with Vermont Country Store in theory; in practice, we probably won’t be stringing up a clothesline. But maybe we’ll dust off the drying rack.

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WISTERIA’S REFRESHING TAKE ON OLYMPICS-INSPIRED MERCHANDISE

MOST PRODUCTS AND PROMOTIONS INSPIRED BY THE OLYMPIC GAMES are too predictable and patriotic. Gifts cataloger Wisteria took advantage of this year’s Beijing games with a Web promotion that offered 30% off on all its Chinese-inspired pieces. The three-day online sale ended when the torch was lit on Aug. 8. Great idea — wonder if it was a winner for Wisteria in sales.

SORRY IS NOT THE HARDEST WORD FOR J. CREW

A FORMER MULTICHANNEL MERCHANT STAFFER received this e-mail from J. Crew on July 30. Apparently the apparel merchant made some enhancements to its Website and call center that resulted in several service snafus. But at least J. Crew moved swiftly to let customers know that it was aware of the problems — and sorry about them.

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CRUTCHFIELD CARRIES TORCH FOR OLYMPICS

The 2008 Summer Olympics are in full swing this month, but one multichannel merchant has already had his Olympic moment. Bill Crutchfield, CEO of electronics marketer Crutchfield, carried the Olympic torch in Hangzhou, China, on May 18. How did Crutchfield get this gig? Samsung, one of the event sponsors, invited him to fill one of their sponsored spots in the relay. He looks pretty fired up about it — as he should be.

WOODCRAFT SUPPLY HITS THE BIG 8-0

It started as a tiny shop in Boston’s North End in 1928. Today, Woodcraft Supply — which claims to be the oldest-woodworking retailer in the U.S. — includes more than 85 stores and a catalog selling more than 8,000 items. This old-timer was also quick to embrace the Web — its site, which today boast more than 1 million visitors a month — went up in 1995. Happy anniversary to a stellar multichannel seller.

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turns 30

At the ripe old age of 30, Movies Unlimited considers itself the oldest specialty video retailer in the U.S. And the Philadelphia-based company has seen a lot since it opened its first store in 1978 — from Betamax to VHS to DVD. Movies Unlimited grew to five stores by the mid-’90s but had closed all of its stores by 2004 to market exclusively through catalogs and the Web. To celebrate its three decades in business, the mailer has published a massive 800-page anniversary DVD catalog. The special edition, which sells for $99.95 — plus $5 for shipping and handling — offers rare artwork, sections highlighting star performers and directors, and featured selections on the biggest video hits for the past 30 years. Happy anniversary, Movies Unlimited; in today’s tough climate, 30 is the new 50!

Blogbits

Pondemonium

We stumbled across the Pondemonium blog on the Inc.com Website. In a recent entry, blogger Greg Wittstock, founder/CEO of water-gardening products marketer Aquascape, talks about a vacation he took with cataloger Backroads. The trip consisted of hiking, biking, and rafting in Costa Rica; the group of 20 included a vice president of apparel merchant Coldwater Creek and a founder of the retailer The Finish Line.

Wittstock blogs that he was curious about the business opinions of his trip mates and that he discussed Aquascape’s distribution strategy with them. Some of the readers who posted comments on the article did not think this was a shrewd move. One of the comments points out that, given the faltering stock prices of both The Finish Line and Coldwater Creek, Wittstock “may want to find better people and business models to get advice from…” The commenter pointed out that the “the people you met should have been working on improving their company instead of looking at animals in Cost Rica.” Now that’s a bit harsh.

Blogger is stark craving mad about Anthropologie

E-commerce experts these days are always advising merchants to start a blog. Anthropologie doesn’t have to — one of its more ardent fans started her own blog devoted to the wares sold by the apparel, gifts, and home goods cataloger/retailer. Launched in October 2005 by Lincoln Park, NJ-based artist Jennifer Fuchs, Craving Anthropologie covers various items that Fuchs covets from in the high-end merchant’s store, from outfits and accessories to gifts and home decor items. The Craving Anthropologie site brings in more than 1,200 visitors a week who check in to check out what Fuchs is obsessed with at the moment. We’re not sure how much Fuchs’ Internet obsession with Anthropologie helps the merchant in sales. But we assume it can’t hurt.

LET’S HEAR FROM YOU!

Let us know how we’re doing. Send us any comments on recent articles or issues, or perhaps a multichannel shopping tale you’d like to share.

HOW TO CONTACT US:

E-mail: melissa.dowling@penton.com

Phone: 203-358-9900 Fax: 203-358-5823

Letter: 11 River Bend Drive South, Stamford, CT 06907

Web: www.MultichannelMerchant.com

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Crappy new year from Shopit

Did you get stuck with a clunker of a Christmas gift? Social shopping community site Shopit.com is spending $10,000 on two of the crappiest gifts received this past holiday season. Members add their crappy gifts to their Shopit stores in one of two categories: Ugliest Apparel Item and Most Useless Item. The Shopit community votes on which item they think is the crappiest, and the winner of each category receives $5,000. Crappy may be in the eye of the beholder, but members can also have friends vote for their gifts through their Facebook profiles if they add the Shopit Facebook Application. The contest ended Jan. 31; may the worst gift have won!

True story: A bear ate my order

A staffer on a sister publication to Multichannel Merchant shared an interesting tale. Her parents are good customers of Omaha Steaks, and last fall her mother placed an order for two boxes of steaks to be shipped to the family’s home in the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York.

The scheduled date of delivery came and went with no steaks, which was highly unusual. The staffer’s mom checked with UPS, which said the steaks had been delivered; the box was probably placed between the screen door and the front door. Her mother called the Omaha Steaks 800-number and relayed the story to the sales rep. The rep immediately sent out a duplicate order, which arrived promptly.

A few days later, the staffer’s brother was out taking a hike in a wooded section of the property not far from the house and came upon … the Omaha Steaks’ Styrofoam shipping box. Judging by the claw and teeth marks on the packaging, and the paw prints in the fresh mud, the bear must have snatched the package from the door, carried it off and torn it apart for a tasty steak dinner.

The staffer’s mom called Omaha Steaks to relay the story, and the reps there had a good laugh. Kudos to the meat merchant for replacing the order with no questions asked before this unbearable mystery was solved.

J.Crew pumped about shoe club

Women love shoes, it’s true, but do they want to be surprised with a new pair selected by strangers every month? J. Crew thinks so, as the apparel cataloger/retailer last fall launched a Shoe-of-the-month club. For $1,800, according to the catalog copy, “Each month, our designers will handpick their favorite shoes and send them straight to the doorstep of someone who has been very good this year.” A quick check of the J. Crew Website reveals some surprisingly elegant and funky footwear. But for many women, shoe shopping tends to be personal — and at times emotional — so we’re not sure about the element of surprise with this particular gift club. The 4-in., heel jaguar-print calf-hair Mary Janes, for instance, are not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.

LET’S HEAR FROM YOU!

Let us know how we’re doing. Send us any comments on recent articles or issues, or perhaps a multichannel shopping tale you’d like to share.

HOW TO CONTACT US:

E-mail: melissa.dowling@penton.com

Phone: 203-358-9900 Fax: 203-358-5823

Letter: 11 River Bend Drive South, Stamford, CT 06907 Web: www.MultichannelMerchant.com

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Frederick’s Von Teeses customers with cover girl

For the first time in its 60-year history, Frederick’s of Hollywood features a celebrity on its catalog cover. Who is it? No, it’s not Paris Hilton. No, it’s not Pamela Anderson — never mind: It’s burlesque babe Dita Von Teese. Two versions of the limited edition catalogs mailed in November. As part of the company’s “Pin-Up Parade” holiday campaign, the catalogs feature Von Teese in signature shots including the traditional feather fan dance and ski bunny pin-up scenes. Von Teese, who as a teenager worked in a lingerie store as a salesgirl, is known for her saucy burlesque act, her fetish films and photos, and her retro-glam red-carpet appearances. If you’re not familiar with Von Teese’s work, you may recall that she was once married to goth rocker Marilyn Manson, who, hopefully, will not be appearing in a lingerie catalog anytime soon.

Lands’ End hails huge return

It sounds like a catalog operations manager’s worst nightmare: A customer returns a $19,000 item…21 years after buying it. But this actually happened to Lands’ End. No, the apparel merchant didn’t at one time offer a diamond-encrusted rugby shirt a la Victoria’s Secret’s fantasy bras. The returned item was a special luxury item, however: a London taxicab. The black taxi was featured on the cover of Lands’ End’s holiday catalog in 1984. It was filled with classic English cashmere clothing and gifts and sold for $19,000 to a Kansas woman, who bought it as a gift for her car-collector husband. In 2005, the man invoked Lands’ End’s unconditional guarantee policy for an exchange or refund of the full purchase price. Lands’ End refunded the $19,000 and took back the car. Where are the wheels today? At press time, it was all shined up with a Christmas wreath attached to its grille and parked in front of the company’s Dodgeville, WI-based headquarters. A Lands’ End spokesperson said the company is considering adding the London taxi to its shuttle fleet, which carries employees around its sprawling campus. That’s one way to recoup a return — maybe the cataloger should put the cab’s meter back in.

ForestEthics joins reindeer games

It’s not every day you get a press release quoting Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, but then ForestEthics is highly creative. The nonprofit environmental group in late November released its 2007 Catalog Industry Environmental Scorecard, which hammered mailers such as School Specialty, Sharper Image, and Spiegel with lumps of coal for their less-than-green paper policies. The report noted that Canada’s Boreal Forest is critical caribou habitat, “but it is being logged to make junk mail and catalogs…” Ouch. What did Rudolph add to that? “The Boreal is valuable to us not only because we live there, but also because it’s one of our first lines of defense against global warming,” said Rudolph. “We’re worried there will be fewer and fewer white Christmases, so Donner, Blitzen, and the gang are not feeling very merry this year.” Mailers on ForestEthics’ S-list, better watch out: You’re in the group’s crosshairs like an endangered caribou.

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Crash, but don’t burn

We all know Website crashes happen — it’s how you handle them the counts. A Multichannel Merchant reader forwarded us an e-mail from Bike Nashbar in response to a Web outage the bicycles merchant experienced in October. While the reader was not affected by the site crash, he was impressed with the way Bike Nashbar handled it. We are too:

The bad news: Nashbar.com crashed.

You may have noticed our site experienced technical difficulties Wednesday. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you but want you to know our site is back to 100%!

The good news: We want to make up for it. So we’re offering you a coupon good for 10% off any order good now through Thursday, October 25, only!

To accept our offer simply enter coupon code OOPS at checkout to redeem your additional 10% savings.
— Your friends at Bike Nashbar

J.C. Penney is e-mail star of that ’70s show

We’re not sure where this started, but it’s making the e-mail rounds and wound up in our inbox more than once. The message starts out:

Last weekend I put an exhaust fan in the ceiling for my wife’s grandfather. While my wife’s brother and I were fitting the fan in between the joists, we found something under the insulation. What we found was this: A JC Penney catalog from 1977…

The e-mail goes on to humorously highlight some of the ’70s fashions, from polyester suits and his-and-hers Western shirts to a barrel-themed dining set and a lime-green shag toilet tank cozy. Shown here are just a few of our favorite fashion ensembles. Younger folk might think this catalog is an urban myth — surely no one ever wore such hideous styles. But sadly, we remember them well…

It’s no secret, Victoria is sorry

We detailed last month a Multichannel Merchant staffer’s lackluster experience with a Victoria’s Secret order caused by the cataloger’s August distribution center upgrade. Another MCM staff member and regular Victoria’s Secret customer forwarded this Oct. 9 e-mail from the women’s apparel and lingerie merchant:

Dear Valued Customer,

I know that we have disappointed you in recent months as a result of our Distribution Center move, and I want to sincerely apologize on behalf of our entire organization. This shopping experience is clearly not up to our standards, and even more concerning to me, not up to your expectations.

I know this has caused frustration and major inconvenience to the people we care about most, you. I want to assure you that we are literally working around the clock to resolve these issues.

In the meantime, nothing is more important to me than regaining your trust. To show our appreciation for your loyalty and patience, please accept this offer of $25 off your next online or catalogue purchase. Just enter [offer code] and your certificate number during checkout or mention when placing a phone order.

Again, please accept my sincere apology on behalf of Victoria’s Secret Direct. It is my hope that you grant us the opportunity to serve you again in the future.
Sincerely,
Pia Ferrario
CEO, Victoria’s Secret Direct

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Sweetie darling, of course it’s Lacroix

Break out the Bolli Stoli: Serious couture is coming to catalogs. Multititle mailer Redcats USA announced in September that its La Redoute catalog is teaming up with Christian Lacroix. The fashion icon, made famous by the ’90s British comedy series Absolutely Fabulous, is the catalog’s premier guest designer for the fall 2007 season. Lacroix has designed six pieces for La Redoute USA: a fur and leather “Feria” tote for $299.99, a “Falbala” Trench (also $299.99), a silk taffeta “Sevillane” dress for $199.99, a fur and leather “Fiesta” bag for $149.99, the “Bauduc” extra-large bath towel ($44.99), and satin and leather “Hacienda” boots ($179.99). We know these prices are a steal compared to what Lacroix designs usually command, but they are still a tad steep for us. If this is what we need to be fabulous for fall, however, we’ll take one of everything. Absolutely.

A haunting obsession with Halloween

We suspected Halloween was becoming a holiday more for adults, as well as a more upscale occasion, but this proves it. The first 33 pages of Grandin Road’s 88-page Autumn ’07 edition are devoted to Halloween gear. What would Grandin Road — an upscale home and gifts spin-off of Frontgate — sell to celebrate the spooky event? A copper cauldron for $199, a life-size cloaked reaper figure ($119), a real wooden coffin ($99; add $129 for the 5-ft. mummy with flashing eyes and sound effects); a dog’s pirate costume ($34), and plenty of other Halloween-themed decor and accessories. Nobody loves Halloween more than we do, but it seems some people are spending way too much time and money on the holiday — especially those coffin buyers. That’s just scary.

But I don’t want to visit your Website …

Catalogers may want to drive customers to their Websites, but if you show something in the print book, it would be nice if you sold it there as well. For instance, apparel and linens merchant Garnet Hill’s fall edition shows a skirt pared with a striped top on page 3. If you are interested in the shirt, there is no key to find the item’s copy block or page number. Rather, you will be directed to “visit Garnethill.com” to find it. The item appears again on page 7 under a trench coat. It’s shown a third time under a cargo jacket on page 18. At least this time Garnet Hill provides the item number and price, but the cataloger still asks you to go to its Website for some reason. Sometimes customers see an item in the catalog and they just want to pick up the phone and order it. Making them go to the Website can put an obstacle in the path to purchase and result in a lost sale.

Praying for a home sale?

It’s nice to know that somebody is benefiting from the real estate slide. The Catholic Co., a cataloger/Web marketer of Catholic books and gifts, reports that sales of the faith-based St. Joseph home sale kit rose nearly 100% in late August/mid September. (We’re not sure what the kit entails, but we think the process involves burying a small plastic St. Joseph figure in your yard and following instructions for prayer to the saint.) According to the company, sales of the item historically correlate with the strength of the housing market and the overall economy. The Catholic Co. says it can often tell the strength of the economy in any given area based on the number of St. Joseph home sale kits its ships to that area. It is probably not a good sign that rather than seeing a lift in particular areas of the country where the economy is struggling, the cataloger is now shipping the kits all over the country.

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Get ready for Beaney World

L.L. Bean’s flagship store has long been the biggest draw in Freeport, ME — perhaps because it’s been open 24 hours a day, seven days a week since 1951. But now the outdoor gear and apparel merchant has announced plans to develop a theme park-style adventure park on a 700-acre parcel of land it owns near its headquarters. Instead of theme rides, such as a canoe flume or perhaps spinning duck-boot cars, Bean plans to offer more active pursuits such as kayaking, archery, and snowshoeing, with rock-climbing walls and fishing ponds. The merchant, which is seeking hotel developers to handle lodging for the center, hopes to have the attraction up and running within three years. Testing fly-fishing equipment isn’t in the same league as Space Mountain, to us, anyway. But to Bean’s hardcore fans, the park will likely be a true thrill ride.

This merchandising theory takes the cake

Merchandising experts have long known that home decor trends tend to follow apparel fashions. Now some consultants are saying that wedding cake colors and designs are following home decor trends — and that furnishing catalogs are a good predictor of what you’ll soon be seeing on fashionable wedding cakes. We knew the wedding industry was getting out of hand, but this is, well, the icing on the cake. According to a report from one baker, pink and orange wedding cakes were hot at one point, then blue and brown had their moment. What’s next? If the fall edition of Restoration Hardware’s Home catalog is any indication, cakes will be coming up beige, sage, or mocha. Not all that exciting — or appetizing. We hate to be so traditional, but some times plain vanilla rules.

American Spoon celebrates its silver

It’s hard to believe that American Spoon turns 25 this year. The artisanal specialty foods merchant (then American Spoon Foods) was a relative upstart when we (then as Catalog Age) profiled it back in 1992. But the brainchild of Northern Michigan wild food forager Justin Rashid and New York chef Larry Forgione has been jamming ever since. In addition to its signature preserves, American Spoon includes fruit salsas, fruit grilling sauces, relishes, and dried cherries. The Petoskey, MI-based company supports several small, local family farms that grow prized fruit varieties for American Spoon’s most celebrated products. (The merchant’s Early Glow Strawberry Butter was named Best Artisanal Condiment by the Gallo Family Vineyards Gold Medal Awards in April 2006.) Happy 25th American Spoon — you deserve a big fruitcake!

Frederick’s to uncover new corset creations

Frederick’s of Hollywood wants you to unleash your inner corset designer. The legendary lingerie mailer in August teamed with online marketing firm Brickfish to launch a campaign called “From Your Design to Hollywood & Vine.” The program invites fashion fans to create unique corset designs and post them online. Anyone can review, vote on, and share their favorite corset creations; winning designs will be chosen by viewers and Frederick’s of Hollywood executives. It’s fitting that Frederick’s, which is credited with bringing black undergarments, push-up bras, and thongs to U.S. drawers, is involved in a consumer corset contest. The competition ended Sept. 14; perhaps some hot new lingerie designer is about to bust out onto the scene as a result.

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What’s that lying in the garden, ahead?

We usually love paging through the Charleston Gardens catalog of home and garden gifts, furnishings, and decorative accessories, as it makes us dream of having a yard big enough to boast urns and various statuary. But one product in the mailer’s summer 2007 edition stopped us in our tracks. One spread selling reproductions of antique stone garden ornaments shows a female head lying forlornly on the grass. The catalog describes the item as “Sleeping woman”; we’d call it “decapitated lady’s head.” If we ever stumbled upon this poor maiden, we’d run away screaming — that is, if we didn’t break a toe tripping over it. Maybe some things don’t need to be reproduced.

Bang the drums loudly

Get out your earplugs — it’s time for Guitar Center’s Drum-Off 2007. The music instruments retailer, which also owns the Musician’s Friend catalog, has been holding the drum competition for 19 years. If you think you might be the next Ringo Starr or Tommy Lee, let Guitar Center be the judge: At the store-level competitions, which begin Sept. 12, drummers perform a three-minute drum solo, which will be judged on originality, skills/technique, style, stage presence and overall performance. Winners of the store preliminaries will advance on to the store finals; subsequent winners will go on to district finals, regional finals and finally the grand finals, which will take place in December. Drum-Off this year includes an interactive Website that offers members the vital tools to upload tracks, edit profiles, and share their passion with other members online. The competition may be a great way to drum up traffic, but you won’t catch us anywhere near Guitar Center stores during the audition period.

Blogger begs Sears to boast about Lands’ End

We’re not the only ones who think Sears could be doing a better job integrating and promoting Lands’ End after acquiring the apparel mailer six years ago: A financial blogger has boarded our bandwagon. In an August post on stock market opinion and analysis site Seeking Alpha, investor/blogger Todd Sullivan writes that “Lands’ End has great, stylish products at great prices. Why don’t more people know they can go to their local Sears to buy them?” Sullivan notes that “Not a single Sears commercial I have seen tells us that Lands’ End merchandise is available at stores. When I get my flier in the newspaper each week, there isn’t anything special telling me that I can buy Lands’ End clothing at Sears. When I get my Lands’ End catalog in the mail, nothing tells me to go to my local Sears to buy Lands’ End clothing. Why the secret?” Sullivan adds that “If you sit in a Sears that sells Lands’ End, there is a constant stream of traffic to the areas of the store that have the Lands’ End merchandise. This is probably the reason [Sears CEO Edward] Lampert announced he plans to double the locations that offer the products this year. But, Eddie, tell people about it!”

Yes, it was too early to get organized for the holidays

When that first fall holiday catalog hits, typically during a heat wave, the last thing we want to think about is wool sweaters and knit hats. We also don’t want to think about getting ready for the holiday season. We’re talking to you, Room Service Home, who sent us a “Holiday at the Beach Notebook” catalog in mid-July. “It’s never too early to get organized for the holidays!” chirped the president’s letter. “It’s summertime and our little Holiday at the Beach Notebook can help keep you cool with our Summer Santa Specials, offering pricing rewards for getting your holidays handled early …” Well, maybe pricing rewards will soften the blow of trying to get us to think about the holidays already. And the digest-size book is adorable, with a cover depicting glittery cottage and tree figurines set in sand instead of fake snow. But sorry — there’s no way it’s coming to the beach with us.

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Sharper Image to spokesman: Sell the steak, not the sizzle

Here’s a meaty deal: The struggling Sharper Image Corp. is teaming up with mouthy mogul Donald Trump to sell upscale steaks. The gifts and gadgets merchant — the exclusive catalog reseller of Trump Steaks — sells five different “collections” of what Trump unsurprisingly describes as “The World’s Greatest Steaks,” ranging from the $99 Metro to the $999 Connoisseur. What’s so marvelous about this meat? It’s USDA prime certified Angus beef, a brand that the copy says is so elite that less than 1% of all the beef produced in the U.S. can meet this standard. We’re not sure that The Donald, who in addition to his real estate empire has had mixed success hawking cologne, apparel, bottled water, and vodka, is going to be able to provide the Midas Touch Sharper Image so desperately needs. But we hope it works out, as SI could use a bone right now.

Well, she was an American Girl…

There’s no stopping American Girl. The dolls marketer, which in addition to its catalog includes American Girl Place destination stores in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York (and a fourth scheduled to open this month in Atlanta), is the subject of an exhibit of the Toy & Miniature Museum of Kansas City. The show “What does it mean to be an American Girl?” runs from April 23 through Aug. 31 and includes a display on the company’s eight main historical dolls and the periods they cover in U.S. history, as well as an event series on Saturdays throughout the summer. In addition to the museum’s recognition, the company — a unit of Mattel since 1998 — is introducing a ninth doll this fall, plus it’s making its first feature film (starring Little Miss Sunshine’s Abigail Breslin) scheduled for a July 2008 release. Looks like American Girl is going to make Mattel a lot of money in the next year; Barbie must be cowering.

Oriental Trading Co. turns 75

When Harry Watanabe founded Oriental Trading Co. in 1932 to sell value-priced goods during the Depression, he probably never envisioned the business evolving into a multichannel merchant with sales well exceeding $500 million. The Omaha, NE-based mailer, which sells novelties, toys, and party supplies, was sold by Harry’s son Terry to Brentwood Associates in 2000; it changed hands again last year when Brentwood sold the majority of the company to private equity firm The Carlyle Group. Oriental Trading, we salute you on your 75th, and we hope you’re planning a big bash to celebrate! (We’ll assume you’re all set with the balloons, streamers, and party favors…)

This just in: Caribou attacking catalogers

If you see someone in a caribou costume lurking outside your building, it’s probably not going to be a good day. Environmental watchdog group ForestEthics is siccing “Candace the Caribou” on catalogers to highlight industry’s contribution to global warming. Candace kicked off her countrywide summer tour on June 20 by setting up a lemonade stand in front of J. Crew’s New York headquarters. At press time Candace was also planning to pay calls on Lands’ End, J.C. Penney, Eddie Bauer, and Crate & Barrel. We appreciate ForestEthics’ efforts to save the earth — the group credits its aggressive campaigns with recently turning Victoria’s Secret “from environmental offender to leader” — but we’re not sure that a lemonade-selling caribou is going to do the trick. Still, Candace is a nice change of pace from the the large, inflatable union rat that’s been known to harass some catalog merchants.

CONTACT US…

E-mail: melissa.dowling@penton.com

Phone: 203-358-9900 Fax: 203-358-5823

Letter: 11 River Bend Drive South, Stamford, CT 06907 or visit us on the Web at www.MultichannelMerchant.com

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Swimsuit deal inspires Venus envy

Some catalogers have all the luck. Women’s apparel merchant Venus was named the official swimwear brand for the 2007 Miss America pageant, scheduled for Jan. 29 in Las Vegas. So for the all-important swimwear competition, the 52 Miss America contestants were to strut their stuff in Venus’s bathing suits. Though the affiliation with Miss America should bring Venus some exposure, Venus is doing more than helping the contestants cover their assets: The Jacksonville, FL-based merchant has also donated $50,000 to the Miss America scholarship program.

Course catalog earns school some hard knocks

Pikes Peak Community College may need a stiff drink to weather criticism from its spring course catalog. Area high schools were not amused with the Colorado Springs, CO-based catalog’s cover, which depicts several liquor bottles and the slogan “under the influence.” The cover was sort of clever — each bottle had affixed to it an image such as Einstein, fingers playing a piano, and a woman in a lab coat, with the copy “…Studies prove that an intelligence-induced high can drastically alter the state of your future. Side effects include: better job, bigger salary, happier life.” We have to give Pikes Peak Community College an “A” for creativity, but bottles of booze on the course catalog cover may not be the best way to attract future Einsteins to your institute of higher education.

SwapThing, you make my heart sing

Looking to unload that reindeer sweater your well-meaning aunt gave you for Christmas? You may be able to exchange it for something better on SwapThing.com, a Website that lets users swap or sell unwanted gifts. The swap-based (as opposed to auction-based) site enables the barter of any combination of goods and services, using cash to balance transactions that seem unequal. Cupertino, CA-based SwapThing.com offers free registration and item listing, with a $1.00 transaction fee for each exchange of goods regardless of how many items are involved in the swap. Founded in 2005 by online entrepreneur Jessica Hardwick, the site currently has more then 3 million “things” available. Now if we can just find someone with whom to swap something for the hideous crocheted toilet-paper cover we got stuck with in a holiday grab bag.

Spencer Gifts under fire for “pornaments”

Novelties merchant Spencer Gifts in early December drew the ire of a Miami lawyer for selling Christmas tree ornaments depicting elves, snowmen, and Santa characters in sexually explicit poses. Attorney Jack Thompson warned the Egg Harbor Township, NJ-based merchant via letter that displaying such items where children can see them is illegal in several states. Citing Florida’s law against displaying sexually explicit products where minors can see them, Thompson gave the cataloger/retailer a deadline to remove the “pornaments” from Florida store shelves. Spencer Gifts complied by pulling some of the X-rated ornaments, though Thompson remained irked that it continued to display them on the Internet and in its stores in other states. We’re not sure what Santa Claus would have to say about all this, but we’re guessing he would find the pornaments more naughty than nice.

CONTACT US…

E-mail: melissa.dowling@penton.com Phone: 203-358-9900 Fax: 203-358-5823 Letter: 11 River Bend Drive South, Stamford, CT 06907 or visit us on the Web at www.MultichannelMerchant.com

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This porridge is too healthy

It’s been said that beauty starts on the inside. Japanese skincare merchant DHC Corp. is backing up that theory with the launch of its Japanese 10 Grain Porridge. DHC, known for the product samples it affixes to catalog pages, describes the porridge as “a hearty mix of ten natural grains — soybeans, barnyard millet, whole barley, buckwheat, pressed barley, adlay, red rice, glutinous millet, red beans, and brown rice.” We’re not sure what sounds worse: barnyard millet or glutinous millet. It’s enough to make Goldilocks run screaming from the three bears’ cottage. Though DHC insists “the delicious combination results in a hearty and satisfying meal,” you probably won’t see us microwaving packets of the Japanese multigrain porridge when we need a lift. But you will continue to see us fighting over the product samples when the DHC catalogs arrive.

Alaska Wild Berry Products gets theatrical

In keeping with the “if you build it, they will come” philosophy, Peter Eden has built a $1.5 million, 123-seat theater on a wooded plot behind his store and bakery. The only challenge is that the store is in Anchorage, AK — not exactly a high-traffic spot. But Eden, owner of cataloger/retailer Alaska Wild Berry Products, hopes the theater will serve as a destination to bring people into town and his store. The theater, completed this past summer, is no backwoods production: It boasts an $80,000 digital movie projector, a 16-speaker THX sound system, and a stage for live events. It also has a swanky lounge for bus drivers, to help ensure that they bring tours through. We’ve never been to Alaska, but if we’re ever anchored down in Anchorage, Alaska Wild Berry will be our first stop.

Linensource lets them eat cake

We know the Linensource also sells tablecloths, napkins, and the like, but to us it’s a bedding catalog. So it was a bit strange to see several cakes for sale in a recent edition. The coffee cake on page 4 was a little jarring, but not so out of place on a spread selling down converters, sateen sheet sets, pillows, and dinnerware. After all, who doesn’t dream of breakfast in bed? But a page selling three gourmet cheesecakes and a chocolate torte toward the back of the book looks plain weird. Yes, the cakes appear on a page with table linens and a coffee/dessert serving set, but the opposite page sells a bedding set and a wall-mount jewelry armoire. Maybe Linensource knows what it’s doing, but it seems like crumby pagination to us.

Bra-vo to Victoria’s Secret

It seems like lingerie merchant Victoria’s Secret has been selling its bejeweled fantasy bras for 100 years, but it’s actually been only 10. To celebrate a decade of diamond-studded underwear, the company in October introduced the $6.5 million Hearts on Fire Diamond Fantasy Bra. The 800-carat top is bursting with 2,000 clear diamonds sewn over the garment in white gold; it also boasts a 10-carat diamond broach in its center. Despite its heft, supermodel Karolina Kurkova has claimed that this year’s fantasy bra is more comfortable than Victoria’s Secret’s previous takes on over-the-top intimate apparel. That’s good to know — we were a little nervous about shelling out so much for a bra that might not be comfortable.

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Avon deal takes Jeter from pinstripes to perfume

The New York Yankees may have stunk up the baseball field in October when they were knocked out of the American League Division Series by the Detroit Tigers. But Yankee captain Derek Jeter is smelling like a rose, thanks to his perfume deal with Avon Products. The Bronx Bomber and the global beauty company have teamed to create Driven, a men’s fragrance that according to the Avon Website is a blend of “chilled grapefruit, clean oak moss, and spice.” The scent is the first in a series of men’s grooming products bearing Jeter’s name. If we weren’t such big Yankee fans, we would probably say something snarky, such as “looks like that’s the ONLY series Jeter will be involved with anytime soon.” But we are, and we won’t.

Brooks Brothers bets on Browne

We know the Brooks Brothers brand is a classic, but how many navy blazers and pink oxford shirts does one need? Even the 188-year-old clothier seems to have acknowledged that it needs a hot brand injection: It has announced a new creative concept — a laboratory for guest designers selected for the “forward-thinking vision and youthful application of fashion trends.” These designers will present capsule collections for Brooks Brothers stores. First up is American menswear designer Thom Browne, winner of the 2005 Council of Fashion Designers of America Award, who will present a 50-piece collection for the cataloger/retailer in fall 2007. Browne’s signature “geek chic” style is inspired by suits from the late 1950s and early 1960s, with distictive, youthful (small) cuts. So if you start seeing tight-fitting jackets with narrow lapels and too-short pants around the country club next fall, you’ll know why.

Sierra celebrates its 20th anniversary

Twenty years ago Keith Richardson had the idea to buy name-brand overstocks and closeouts and sell them to consumers at deep discounts via catalog. He mailed 100,000 copies of the first 16-page Sierra Trading Post catalog in 1986; today the Cheyenne, WY-based company includes 10 titles and mails more than 60 million catalogs a year, selling items ranging from apparel to outdoor gear to bedding. Being on its mailing list, we can attest that Sierra Trading drops a lot of catalogs, but we look through each one, because you never know when and where a great deal may be lurking in the pages. On your 20th anniversary, we salute you, Sierra.

Lofty times for former Spiegel HQ

Back in the day, the Spiegel catalog was such a Chicago institution that couch potatoes nationwide knew its zip code. (Remember when game-show prizes frequently included gift certificates from “Spiegel, Chicago 60609…”?) Though Spiegel has since moved — first to Downers Grove, IL, and then, under new owners and management, to New York — the site that once housed its offices and warehouse has languished. But the six-story, 70-year-old building on West 35th Street in Chicago has a new lease on life: It’s been converted to 158 fancy lofts that boast exposed interior brick, 11-ft. concrete ceilings, and oversize windows. If you’ve always dreamed of living in a former catalog headquarters, units at the Lofts at Bridgeport Place range from the mid-$200,000s to the high $400,000s. And hopefully the space isn’t haunted with the ghosts of mad merchandise managers, surly customer service reps, or disgruntled circulation planners.

CONTACT US…

E-mail: melissa.dowling@penton.com Phone: 203-358-9900 Fax: 203-358-5823 Letter: 11 River Bend Drive South, Stamford, CT 06907 or visit us on the Web at www.MultichannelMerchant.com

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Rosy outlook for J&P’s papal posy

Horticultural products merchant Jackson & Perkins this spring debuted a commemorative hybrid tea rose in honor of the late Pope John Paul II. The pure white rose, which the Medford, OR-based company says has “a crisp refreshing fragrance,” was chosen by the Vatican to honor the beloved pontiff and was planted in the Vatican gardens earlier this year. In the spirit of the rose’s namesake, 10% of the net proceeds from the sale of each rose will be put at the disposal of Vatican City, which is donating the funds to a charity benefiting the poor of sub-Saharan Africa. Pope John Paul II, who died in April 2005, would no doubt give the gesture his blessing.

Mailer invites horse owners to Get Smart

Equine supplies and gifts merchant SmartPak in September began a monthly series of in-depth discussions on horse-health topics at its new store in Natick, MA. The company’s medical director, Lydia Gray, DVM, is providing the latest research and leading discussions in such areas as “Joint Supplements: What’s Hip and What’s Hype?” and “Traveling with Your Horse.” The Plymouth, MA-based merchant hopes the “Get Smart” series will enable its store to be a source of information as well as products for horse owners in the same vein as its catalog and Website. If you’re chomping at the bit to hear the lectures but you’re not located near the Boston area, don’t fret: Summaries of Gray’s presentations, which will run through December, will be published on the SmartPak Website after each talk.

Sizable challenges for female shoppers

Are you wearing all the clothes in your closet? Probably not — and you’re not alone: Among respondents to a survey conducted this spring by apparel cataloger/retailer Talbots, 80% said they do not wear at least a quarter of the clothes they own. More than half (56%) of respondents cited fit as the main reason for not wearing their clothes more often — no shocker given the disparity in sizing among women’s apparel designers and manufacturers. While 62% said they consider only items in their specific size when shopping for clothes, the same percentage didn’t know their measurements. What’s more, though nearly 80% said they own a dressmaker’s tape measure, just 38% have had their measurements taken in the past year, and 45% said they’d had their measurements taken within the past two years. We’re actually surprised that almost half of the respondents had been measured in the past 24 months; we haven’t had our measurements taken since the last time we were a bridesmaid, nearly a decade ago. But we get Talbots’ point: Ladies, think fit, not size, and clean out your closets!

Williams-Sonoma goes for gold

If you think it’s hard to imagine a time when Williams-Sonoma didn’t exist, there’s a reason: The multititle cataloger/retailer is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. It was in September 1956 that Chuck Williams opened his upscale cookware shop in Sonoma, CA; the store moved to San Francisco a year later. The store really began cooking with gas in the 1960s, thanks in large part to culinary how-to programs on TV. Celebrity chefs such as Julia Child were teaching Americans how to make soufflés, and Williams was then one of the few sources for soufflé dishes and other exotic cooking tools. Today the company includes 573 stores, seven catalogs, and six Websites — including the ubiquitous Pottery Barn brands. In the past 50 years (okay, more like the past 15 years), we’ve dropped a lot of money across Williams-Sonoma’s brands and channels, and we are delighted to wish the company many happy returns.

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Pluto’s plummet inspires Discovery poll

The news that Pluto had been demoted from planet to mere “dwarf planet” by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) two months ago helped to renew interest in astronomy. As such, Silver Spring, MD-based science toys and gifts cataloger/retailer Discovery Channel Stores decided to provide children an opportunity to weigh in on the fate of Pluto in the solar system. From Aug. 30 through Sept. 6, kids (and adults) could cast their vote in all Discovery stores and on Discoverystore.com/Pluto on whether Pluto should remain in the family of planets. We were as surprised as anybody to hear on Aug. 24 that the IAU had changed the definition of a planet, leaving poor Pluto out in the cold and dropping the count of official planets in our solar system to eight. So we think it’s great that Discovery found a way to let people have their say. Maybe the poll should ask if Mickey Mouse should now change the name of his dog.

Silver celebration for Rossi Pasta

Boil some water and break out the pesto sauce: Marietta, OH-based cataloger Rossi Pasta turns 25 this year. The company, which cranks out up to 700 lbs. of pasta a day and uses more than 160,000 lbs. of flour a year, has seen its share of highs and lows since 1981: new pasta-drying technology that replaced hand-cranked, labor-intensive methods in the mid-1990s; the launch of its Website in 1998; a flood in September 2004; and the opening of its first store, in Marietta, last year. To celebrate its silver anniversary, Rossi is holding a recipe contest on its Website. The winner will have his or her recipe printed in an upcoming catalog or e-newsletter. Happy birthday, Rossi Pasta, and mangia!

Former Bean chief gets bookish

You could say that L.L. Bean wrote the book on catalogs. And in fact Leon Gorman, former president of the venerable Freeport, ME-based outdoor gear, apparel, and home goods merchant (and grandson of company founder Leon Leonwood Bean) has written a book. In the tome, titled L.L. Bean: The Making of an American Icon, Gorman recounts tales of his 41 years at the now $1.5 billion family business. Gorman started working on the book before retiring from L.L. Bean in 2001; it’s due to be published this month. If you think the story of Bean would make a good holiday gift, the book will — not surprisingly — be available in L.L. Bean stores and catalogs and on its Website.

Did Chico’s get cheeky with location shots?

A summer catalog from Fort Myers, FL-based women’s apparel merchant Chico’s cited the location of the photo shoot as Stowe, VT, but some residents of the Green Mountain State begged to differ. The Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, VT, received several calls from Chico’s customers who had received the catalog and recognized the location’s landmarks. For instance, the steamship Ticonderoga can be found on the grounds of the museum, rather than in the quaint village of Stowe, less than an hour away. While many customers were upset that the location had been misrepresented, the museum took it in stride. While it no doubt would have liked to have received credit for serving as Chico’s location, the museum did pocket a fee for its services, which will benefit its education fund.

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S&S celebrates centennial

Another month, another catalog anniversary. But this is a big one: Colchester, CT-based arts, crafts, and physical education products mailer S&S Worldwide, whose 12 catalogs include S&S School Supplies, S&S Discount Sports and PE Supplies, and S&S Active Learning, is celebrating 100 years in business. Founded in 1906 by Aaron Schwartz as S&S Leather in New York, specializing in leather-covered wire hair curlers, S&S began supplying its leather remnants for do-it-yourself kits for producing comb cases, wallets, and small purses — kits designed to employ disabled World War I veterans. The company evolved over the years to become a supplier of educational and recreational products; it mails about 12 million copies a year to schools, hospitals, religious institutions, home-schooling organizations, correctional facilities, military establishments, municipalities, and social-service organizations. Happy birthday, S&S, and many more!

Off on the right foot with Bush

President George Bush turned the spotlight on Allen-Edmonds when he toured the Port Washington, WI-based shoes manufacturer/marketer on July 11 while in Milwaukee. During the visit, Bush — a regular customer of the 84-year-old company — was gifted with a pair of custom-made red-white-and-blue wingtips. Creating the festive footwear took about a day (special-order shoes normally take a week) and involved some 130 employees, according to the company. Though it has since received a number of inquiries through its stores and customer service center from consumers interested in acquiring their own Uncle Sam-inspired shoes, Allen-Edmonds has no plans to replicate the patriotic pair created just for Bush.

1-800-sponsor-me

TV personality Star Jones Reynolds started it by demanding tacky “sponsorship” deals to pay for her November 2004 wedding. Now a New York couple has taken a page from her playbook, negotiating sponsorships that paid for about $80,000 of their $100,000 wedding bill. Caroline Fisher and Dave Kerpen, who wed on July 8 at the Brooklyn Cyclones baseball stadium, enlisted the donations of goods and services from several merchants — including 1-800-Flowers.com, which provided several thousand dollars’ worth of floral arrangements. A spokesperson for the Carle Place, NY-based marketer said the deal was all about “a good buzz” and was a “viral event,” as sponsors benefited from between-inning promotions (such as a bouquet toss), signage around the stadium, and ads on the stadium’s Jumbotron, as well as inclusion in the 8,000 wedding programs distributed to the crowd. Maybe it is good buzz, but the whole idea is just icky to us. Nonetheless, our best wishes to the haggling couple.

Hardly a cause célèbre

We’re all for putting celebrities on the cover of catalogs, as it’s nice exposure for the entire industry. But if you have to go too far down the celebrity food chain, the practice could backfire. For instance, we saw a release from Thousand Oaks, CA-based cataloger G.W. Little, which specializes in outfits and accessories for small dogs, touting that its summer cover featured ’70s teen idol Tony DeFranco. Now, we’re old enough to know the words of DeFranco’s biggest hit, and we’re still not all that interested in seeing the singer posed with his Yorkshire terrier, Tallulah — will the cataloger’s customers, devotees of the small-dog craze, even know or care who he is? And another thing: Now we can’t get “Heartbeat, It’s a Lovebeat” out of our heads. Thanks a lot, G.W. Little!

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Frontgate has queer eye for Reds’ ballpark

Proving that nothing can escape the country’s makeover madness, West Chester, OH-based home furnishings merchant Frontgate has partnered with the Cincinnati Reds to create America’s first Frontgate Outdoor Luxury Suite. Frontgate also has agreed to the title sponsorship through the 2008 baseball season, which includes updating the decor and furniture offerings each year. The new luxury suite, unveiled during a June 8 game against the Chicago Cubs, features Frontgate’s high-end outdoor furniture including chaise longues, outdoor rugs, and beverage tubs. Located above the owner’s suite over home plate, the suite is available to the general public through the Reds’ group ticket sales department. We prefer to watch our baseball in the stands eating hot dogs and drinking beer with the real fans. Unless it’s really hot or raining, in which case a suite with a chaise sounds pretty good.

West Marine hooks up “Miami Vice” crew

Watsonville, CA-based boating products merchant West Marine may seem like an odd promotional fit for Universal Pictures’ big-screen remake of Miami Vice. But last summer West Marine provided the movie production team with inflatable life jackets for filming on the water. Now that the flick starring Jamie Foxx and Colin Farrell is out, West Marine wants in on the hype. The cataloger/retailer sponsored an online contest, with the top prize a trip to the July 28 world premiere and after-party, plus a $1,000 shopping spree at any West Marine store. Ten runners-up received $100 West Marine gift cards. The film may do well given its star power, but the advance buzz was not great. Maybe West Marine’s life vest can keep it afloat at the box office.

Golden year for Country Curtains

Window treatments cataloger/retailer Country Curtains celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. The Stockbridge, MA-based company was founded in 1956 by Jane and Jack Fitzpatrick, who started out by placing an ad in a Boston newspaper selling ruffled, unbleached muslin curtains. A true dining-table start-up, Country Curtains has expanded its product line to include bedding, pillows, and home accents sold through its catalog, Website, and 24 stores. Happy birthday, Country Curtains!

Can you define “defunct”?

We’ve been told to take some of the definitions on the free online encyclopedia Wikipedia with a grain of salt, and now we know why. A Multichannel Merchant staffer searched “catalog merchant” on the site in mid-June; here’s how Wikipedia defined it: “Catalog merchants were a traditional form of retailing that is now mostly defunct in the United States. Aside from legendary department store chains Sears and JCPenney that also had catalog sales, some chains specifically were set up as catalog merchants. A couple of popular (and now-defunct) chains were Best Products and Service Merchandise.” If you visit Wikipedia now and find a different definition for catalog merchant, you can thank Multichannel Merchant: We plan to submit a more accurate listing to the site.

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Cuddledown gets charitable with cashmere

Did you know that October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month? Portland, ME-based bedding cataloger Cuddledown did, and it’s teaming with vendors to donate 10% of its October retail sales of luxury cashmere gifts to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. What’s more, its holiday cashmere collection, which includes blankets, loungewear, and slippers, will be modeled in the catalog by breast cancer survivors. Cuddledown will donate 5% of retail sales of the cashmere items; its vendors — Reliable of Milwaukee, Acorn Products, Zambaiti USA, and Alashan Cashmere Co. — will contribute the remaining 5%. Cuddledown’s color separator, Vermillion, and its printer, Quebecor World, are also participating in the breast cancer benefit. The cashmere collection is available through the 32-year-old Cuddledown’s catalog and Website as well as in its two stores in Maine. We typically don’t need a reason to indulge in cashmere, but if we did, this would be a great one.

Spirit Elements shows love to schools

As if teaching isn’t a tough enough job, the average teacher spends nearly $600 of his own money to buy classroom materials for his students. Boulder, CO-based home and garden furnishings merchant Spirit Elements is lending a hand by donating 1% of its August sales to iLoveSchools.com. This San Diego-based organization acts as a free matchmaking service for learning institutions. Teachers request materials and supplies, while potential donors search for teachers in need of their gifts. Spirit Elements is certainly no stranger to giving back. Each month the company designates a charity to receive 1% of sales proceeds through its Spirit of Giving program. Spirit Elements selects the charitable organization based on the organization’s contributions, mission statement, and commitment to the community. Previous recipients include the American Kidney Fund, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the National Wildlife Federation, and the American Red Cross’s Tsunami Relief Fund. Such generosity shows that Spirit Elements is most definitely a kindred spirit to charities.

Why is that box meowing?

A returns processor at Country Home Products, which produces the DR Power Equipment catalog, in late July got a little surprise — or rather, five little surprises. A South Carolina customer returning a brush trimmer inadvertently sent back five kittens to the Vergennes, VT-based mailer. The customer had stored the trimmer in a barn and did not look in the box before sealing it and shipping it back to the marketer. The three-week-old kittens, which arrived in Vermont via FedEx on July 27 after a two-day journey, were taken to a Humane Society shelter in Middlebury, VT. At the shelter, a black cat named Hazel whose kittens had just been weaned became a surrogate mother to the five meowing misfits. The kittens were due to be put up for adoption in mid-August. This story brings two thoughts to mind: For one, we bet those kittens are awfully glad that the customer decided to spring for expedited shipping. Second, we wonder how many of Country Home Products’ operations employees decided to adopt one of these furry feline returns.

CONTACT US…

E-mail: mdowling@primediabusiness.com Phone: 203-358-9900 Fax: 203-358-5823 Letter: 11 River Bend Drive South, Stamford, CT 06907 or visit us on the Web at www.MultichannelMerchant.com

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A fitting send-off

Often when a chief executive retires, a company tries to keep it hush-hush, for fear of shattering the brand mystique. But in its winter Goods & Wares catalog, Vermont Country Store owner Lyman Orton devotes most of page 2 to singing the praises of Bob Allen, who retired as president/CEO on Jan. 1, more than 22 years after he joined the company. Like the rest of Vermont Country Store’s copy, the letter from Orton is graceful, gracious, and never self-aggrandizing. “Bob may have waited on you in our store or taken your order over the telephone and you likely didn’t know who he was,” Orton writes. “That’s Bob’s style: delivering the goods to your satisfaction with selfless passion for finding what you need. Bob is going to help Bill Shouldice for the next three years and then retire. He could retire today if he wanted but Bob cares every bit as much as I do for VCS….Join me in thanking Bob Allen — a true storekeeper — for delivering the goods.”

Tiffany’s got game

Super Bowl XXXIX may now be a dim memory, but it’s still a victory for Tiffany & Co. The acclaimed New York-based jewelry and giftware marketer has been supplying the Vince Lombardi Super Bowl trophy for 39 years. Created at Tiffany’s workshop in Parsippany, NJ, the 22-in.-high trophy depicts a regulation-size football in sterling silver. Tiffany & Co. also creates the Pete Rozelle Trophy presented to the Most Valuable Player of the Super Bowl game, an 18-in. statuette with a shooting star design handcrafted in sterling silver with vermeil accents. Tiffany isn’t just a football fan — it also makes the trophies for the National Basketball Association’s Larry O’Brien Championship, the World Series for Major League Baseball, and the U.S. Open Tennis Championship, among other sports events. One question: Do the trophies come in that blue box?

Bass Pro Shops steps up to help tsunami victims

The outpouring of aid from all over the world to help victims of the December tsunami in Southeast Asia has been overwhelming and impressive. Many merchants are doing their part as well by making it quick and easy for their customers to donate via links from their Websites to charitable organizations. Springfield, MO-based outdoor products cataloger/retailer Bass Pro Shops is going a step further by matching customer donations. The company, which has donated water, food, and clothing to the victims, on Jan. 16 began the Bass Pro Shops Tsunami Relief Challenge at all of its stores, through its catalog call center, and on its Website. Through the end of January, Bass Pro Shops was matching $0.50 of every $1.00 donated by customers up to $25,000. All funds will be donated to the American Red Cross International Response Fund to be used in the tsunami relief efforts. Way to go, Bass Pro!