Sears Canada Relaunches Eatons Catalog

Like Sears here in the States, Canadian department store Eatons stopped mailing its “big book” many years ago – 25 to be exact. But this past October, the Eatons catalog resurfaced, thanks to its new parent company, Sears Canada.

Sears Canada, which is partially owned by the U.S.’s Sears Roebuck, acquired the trademarks and lists of 130-year-old Eatons in December 1999, several months after the venerable retailer had filed for bankruptcy. It also acquired 16 of Eatons’ 64 retail locations. Unlike its U.S. counterpart, Sears Canada still produces big-book catalogs.

Even before it began reopening the stores, Sears Canada relaunched the catalog. Beginning in October, it distributed 4.3 million issues of the holiday catalog.

Beth McIlroy, manager of print and Internet marketing for Sears Canada, says that approximately 2.4 million copies were mailed to agencies that receive orders for customers; 1.6 million copies went to Sears Canada customers; 20,000 were sent to requesters; 50,000 were mailed to select Eatons’ credit-card holders; 150,000 were reserved for promoting the Eatons credit card relaunch; and 200,000 catalogs were distributed at the seven Eatons stores that Sears Canada reopened in November. Reintroducing the catalog – and launching an Eatons Website at the end of October – enables the company to leverage the Eatons brand in areas where shopping venues are scarce, McIlroy explains.

The new Eatons catalog is not quite the big book that Canadians may remember. At 100 pages, it’s about one-seventh the size of its previous incarnation. And its offerings, which include diamond jewelry and high-tech kitchen gadgets, are more upscale than in its halcyon days, when most of its products were nearly identical to those of then-rival Sears Canada.

In fact, while Eatons and Sears Canada now share an infrastructure, the two brands will remain distinct, McIlroy says: “The customer expectation and experience is different with each name.” Although Sears Canada handled the design and production of the Eatons catalog relaunch, McIlroy says the company will eventually hire a separate Eatons catalog staff.

Instead of a holiday bonus, more than 150 workers at Sonic Foundry received pink slips just before Christmas. The audio and visual software developer/cataloger laid off 40% of its work force on Dec. 20, reducing its head count to approximately 245.

Citing weak holiday sales and “an overall softening in the PC industry,” the Madison, WI-based company said in a statement that the layoffs should enable it to reach an EBITDA breakeven sooner than originally forecasted, a point echoed by Sonic Foundry spokesperson Dawn Tappy. About 100 of the laid-off employees had worked in the Madison office; the rest had worked in the company’s other two offices, in Santa Monica, CA, and Toronto.

The layoffs, which are expected to slash operating expenses by more than $20 million annually, are not Sonic Foundry’s first. “Earlier in the year we laid off approximately 40 employees, mostly in the Santa Monica office,” Tappy says. And even more staffers might have been laid off this time around if it weren’t for the company’s plan to sell its multimedia content-syndication unit. In early December, Sonic Foundry signed a letter of intent to sell the unit to Carsey-Werner, an independent distributor of television programming, which has produced and syndicated TV shows such as Roseanne and That ’70s Show. “The letter of intent that we signed with Carsey-Werner prevented additional layoffs,” Tappy says.

Despite Sonic Foundry’s cutbacks, Tappy says the company has no plans to scale back its catalog mailings. “Our catalog is an extremely strong source of our business, and we’ll continue to increase circulation as needed,” she says. Sonic Foundry, which was founded in 1991, expects annual sales to reach $36 million in 2001.

…with Adam Strum Adam Strum is the president/chairman of Rye, NY-based wine cataloger/publisher Wine Enthusiast Cos.

Where did you grow up? Long Island, NY.

What was your first job out of college?

Wine sales – my father was in the wine business.

How did you get into the catalog business?

In the late ’70s, my wife, Sybil, and I wanted to start selling wine on our own, and we decided to begin by trying the catalog business.

Who or what has had most influence on your career? Horchow founder Roger Horchow and his book Elephants in Your Mailbox.

What catalog do you most admire?

Frontgate, for how it was able to diversify its product mix.

What are your favorite Websites?

Winebusiness.com, which keeps me informed of wine business issues; CNN.com; TheStreet.com; and Yahoo! Finance

To what destination (that you have yet to visit) would you most like to travel? South Africa.

Other than your current job, what would your dream job be?

A tennis professional. I played tennis for four years when I attended Rollins College, in Orlando, FL.

What is your secret obsession? Singing. I also love to travel.

What’s your favorite book? The Source, by James Michener.

What sports do you follow? Tennis.

Favorite team or player?

Pete Sampras. Jimmy Connors was another favorite.

What are your favorite movies? Fargo and American Beauty.

What’s in your CD player now? The Best of Leon Russell.

With whom would you trade places with for a day?

Bill Clinton.

Red or white wine? Red.

Favorite grape? Pinot Noir.

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