Cataloger Clips Its Retail Wings

Five years ago, nature-themed gifts cataloger Wild Wings operated 12 stores in the Midwest. Since then it has closed or sold off half of them. And by July 1, all but two stores will be closed or sold off.

The stores were profitable, says CEO/co-owner Randy Eggenberger, but not nearly as profitable as the company’s consumer and business-to-business catalog units and its wholesale and licensing divisions — the exact profit levels of which he won’t reveal. Retail sales account for 15% of the nearly $20 million company’s total revenue.

Lake City, MN-based Wild Wings mails three catalogs — the Wild Wings Collection, Wild Wings Print Collection, and Wild Wings Originals. The consumer division targets upscale, educated customers from 45-65 years old. Products include wildlife-inspired dinnerware, linens, and apparel, sculptures, and wall art. The cataloger’s average order is $170.

After a six-month strategic evaluation last year, “we concluded that retail was the weakest performer of our businesses, and we chose to focus our energies and resources on those areas of highest return of productivity,” Eggenberger says. The company will retain its headquarters showroom in Lake City and an outlet center in North Branch, MN.

“Our goal is to grow our catalog sales more aggressively, although I can’t tell yet how much more we’ll mail this fall,” Eggenberger says. “Prospecting is a matter of how much we can afford to lose. So freeing up resources previously tied up in retail should allow us to prospect more deeply and hopefully grow the catalog business more aggressively.”

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