Fingerhut Becoming Bluestem Brands

Fingerhut Direct Marketing is no more. The general merchant announced today that it has changed its corporate name to Bluestem Brands. Bain Capital Ventures and Battery Ventures will remain majority investors and will keep the same interests in the renamed entity.

Why the change? The Eden Prairie, MN-based company believes the new name reflects its progression from a catalog company to a multibrand, multichannel retailer. “We have contemplated this move for quite a while, and the time was right to take action on our strategic convictions,” says CEO Brian Smith.

Bluestem Brands will operate under its two retail brands: Fingerhut and Gettington.com. Launched this past September 2009, Gettington.com is an e-commerce site that sells name-brand goods such as apparel, electronics, jewelry and tools at affordable prices.

Like Fingerhut, which was founded as a catalog in 1948, Gettington.com allows consumers to buy products on credit plans.
Bluestem Brands also includes several private-label merchandise brands such as Chef’s Mark, LifeMax, McLeland Design, Outdoor Spirit, St. Croix Colors, and TestMark.

“We now have an identity as a multibrand company with a focus on e-commerce,” Smith says. The Fingerhut brand has become increasingly Internet centered and Gettington.com is a pure-play Web brand. This new identity will help the company effectively communicate its strategy to employees, recruits, merchant vendors and investors, Smith notes.

But it’s not an attempt to take the focus off the Fingerhut brand and shift away from its rather its low-end image. “Fingerhut’s brand power in the marketplace is undiminished and as strong as ever,” Smith says.

The name Bluestem, which originates from a Midwest prairie grass, is a curious choice for the company that won’t have much initial meaning to consumers, says Craig Battle, managing director of investment bank Tucker Alexander. But Battle admits that probably won’t matter.

“What’s driving the consumer to buy products has more to do with the reputation of the titles owned by Bluestem and its private label merchandise,” he says.

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