Fingerhut taking its final order

(Direct Newsline) Fingerhut Cos. will take its last order for both catalog and online merchandise on Friday, May 17.

Catalog production was halted weeks ago, and the Website, www.fingerhut.com, will be shut down within days. Of the 3,100 employees still on board, only 850 will be needed through September to wind down operations. Another 350 will stay on until January 2003.

“We’ll just have to see what our business needs are now as we move through this process,” says Fingerhut spokesperson Ben Saukko.

At its peak, the firm employed about 6,100. Additional layoff notices are going out this week, Saukko says.

The last day of shipments will be in one week, and all returns will be processed by mid-July. The distribution center in Tennessee will be shuttered by late summer, and the facility in St. Cloud, MN, will close soon after.

The firm and its employees have gone through wild swings of hope and despair since its parent, Federated Department Stores, announced in January that it would sell the catalog company. Spirits were high as Business Development Group in Wayzata, MN, came forward to start talks to buy Fingerhut as an ongoing entity, only to be dashed as negotiations fell through earlier this month.

On news that any possible deal was off, Federated announced that it would pursue the liquidation of the company through the sale of individual assets.

Other potential suitors have appeared and then disappeared. Former Fingerhut CEO Ted Deikel and others are still actively making a play to purchase the company, in part or as a whole, but no deals have been struck, a Federated spokesperson says.

The Union of Needletrades, Industrial, and Textile Employees, representing 1,500 Fingerhut employees, staged rallies with hundreds of employees and made a number of demands on Federated to show that it was, at one point, serious about selling the Fingerhut catalog operations over liquidation. And in February, a 17-year employee and shareholder filed suit against Federated to block liquidation plans.

Fingerhut Cos. has been around since 1948 when Manny and William Fingerhut began selling car seat covers by mail from a garage in Minnesota.

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