New (Old) Eddie Bauer Catalog Beats Expectations

For the past five years, the Eddie Bauer brand “has been all over the place,” admits senior vice president/chief marketing officer Engle Saez. The apparel and home goods cataloger/retailer has been reinvented several times, only to see each effort perform worse than the previous one. Now, under the pressure of the Chapter 11 status of parent firm Spiegel, Bauer in early August mailed yet another new-look catalog. But this new book features a back-to-basics look that seeks to place the 2003 Bauer on a level with the original 1920 outdoor apparel store.

Ten days after the catalog dropped, results were “modestly above our modest projections,” Saez says. Consistent with the new look of the Eddie Bauer stores, Website, and ads, the catalog tries to maintain the level of ease of shopping while creating “a much higher degree of differentiation from our competitors,” he says, listing L.L. Bean, Lands’ End, J. Crew, Coldwater Creek, and Talbots.

The book plays off Bauer’s signature blue jeans, promoting ruggedness, durability, and value, but not price. Saez says that the company isn’t necessarily trying to claim to have a different product line than its rivals.

“For us, it goes back to what will make customers prefer or desire the Eddie Bauer brand vs. a J. Crew or a Lands’ End,” Saez explains. “And we decided since the beginning of this turnaround that the differentiator has to be overall quality and brand image, rather than price. That sounds like marketing lingo, but I truly believe that the consumer ultimately makes buying decisions based on emotions every bit as they would on a rational basis. We want to be on par on the rational standpoint that our products have terrific value, and that our quality is outstanding. But we’re assuming our competitors will be very bit as good on the rational equation. So we’re using our catalog for style and distinction that comes through focusing on the heritage of the Eddie Bauer franchise.”

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