The legend of Montgomery Ward lives on: Although the venerable mailer had closed its big book general merchandise catalog in 1985, filed for bankruptcy in 1997, and went out of business in 2000, a Montgomery Ward catalog has been back in the mail for nearly two years.
Chicago-based multititle mailer Direct Marketing Services Inc. quietly resurrected the Montgomery Ward catalog in September 2004. The 116-page book has mailed six times since then, with the next drop planned for June. DMSI president/CEO David Milgrom says the early response has been positive. “Circulation has been fairly small because we’re relaunching it in a small way,” says Milgrom. “The reason we didn’t put out a press release is because we’re testing a lot of different things right now. It’s a very valuable name.”
Milgrom says DMSI had always been looking to acquire the Montgomery Ward name, but “it was tied up in bankruptcy for a while.” When the bankruptcy was nearly finalized, Milgrom received a call from a trustee asking if DMSI was still interested in acquiring the name, and it acquired the marketing rights in June 2004. “We’re trying to capitalize on the strengths people recognize from the brand, like home furnishings, electronics, and apparel,” he says. While he would not reveal any circulation specifics, Milgrom says the Montgomery Ward catalog primarily caters to people living in Middle America.
DMSI also mails several licensed Sears specialty titles, gifts book Charles Keath, and its core HomeVisions catalog. Milgrom says the Montgomery Ward catalog is different from HomeVisions because it offers a “broader variety of products, and an expanded selection of home furnishings,” along with more items at lower price points. The Montgomery Ward book includes apparel, jewelry, small electronic products, kitchen products, and children’s bedding/furniture.
Milgrom admits that several of his peers doubted the viability of the Montgomery Ward name, but “we don’t think it’s dead.” What’s more, the response–both online and through the catalog–has been very positive, he says. “We think there is great value in the Montgomery Ward brand. We thought it was a great opportunity.”