Fingerhut’s first step

General merchandise cataloger Fingerhut, which on July 10 bought 19.9% of online florist PC Flowers & Gifts, sees this investment as just the first step in a plan to build a stable of online companies.

“We intend to make additional Internet-related acquisitions, and we are on the lookout for companies where we can add value through our promotional expertise,” says Fingerhut president/chief operating officer Will Lansing. Fingerhut also plans to take PC Flowers public within a year.

Meanwhile, Fingerhut intends to offer PC Flowers’ floral gifts in its Figi’s food gifts catalog while offering Figi’s food gifts to customers of the Stamford, CT-based Website marketer. The $1.53 billion Fingerhut will also take over PC Flowers’ back-end operations.

“We mail a half-billion pieces of direct mail a year, which generates an enormous amount of traffic to our Websites,” Lansing says. “So we’re positioned to drive huge traffic to PC Flowers as well as to our other sites,” which include Fingerhut, Figi’s, and Andy’s Garage Sale, which sells close-outs. In September, for instance, Fingerhut plans to put a PC Flowers insert in its Figi’s catalog.

And PC Flowers president/CEO Bill Tobin believes that the exposure in Fingerhut’s mailings could make his company “the largest direct marketer of flowers in the U.S. The way I see it, [competitor] 1-800-Flowers spends thousands of dollars a yearadvertising its Website. I’ll get many times that through this contract,” Tobin says.