Lane Bryant Book a Bust

The News That Charming Shoppes will discontinue its Lane Bryant Woman catalog by the end of the first quarter of fiscal 2010 must have come as a relief to Redcats USA, the brand’s former owner.

After all, Redcats USA had to rebrand its Lane Bryant plus-size clothing, footwear and intimate apparel catalog into Woman Within in 2007, after losing the rights to the Lane Bryant Catalog that year.

Charming Shoppes, which has owned and operated the Lane Bryant plus-size women’s apparel stores since 2001, mailed its first 112-page Lane Bryant catalog at the end of October 2007. Thirteen months later, it’s decided to close the catalog to concentrate on its core Lane Bryant, Fashion Bug and Catherines retail chains.

What went wrong with the catalog? Steven R. Wishner, senior vice president of finance for Charming Shoppes, says the economy played a big part. “In this environment, we decided it wasn’t appropriate to dedicate enough capital to build it to a level it should achieve.”

The catalog targeted a customer different from the Lane Bryant retail store — a younger, 30-something audience with a lower income — and as such, “it was not viewed as core to our strategy going forward,” Wishner says.

Few industry watchers were surprised. Lee Helman, managing director with investment firm Financo, says “The catalog business is not one Charming Shoppes knows or wants to be in, nor do they have the management expertise to operate.” That’s why Charming sold off apparel multititle mailer Crosstown Traders in September, he notes.

Stuart Rose, managing director for investment bank Tully & Holland, adds: “Paper, postage and freight make prospecting a tough game, and any new title — even if it’s an offshoot — involves a bit of prospecting.”

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