Where Are They Now?: The Annotated First Catalog Age 100

Jun 01, 2001 9:30 PM  By

When trying to figure out where you’re going, sometimes it helps to look at where you came from and how you got to where you are today. With that in mind, we’re taking a look back at the companies that made up the first-ever Catalog Age 100, which appeared in our August 1993 issue.

Happily, 52 of the original 100 remain independent catalog or multichannel businesses. During the past eight years another 20 businesses were sold but remain viable catalog businesses. Twenty-three of the companies shifted focus, either getting out of the catalog business (for instance, Gateway, Deluxe Corp., and Damark International) or deemphasized catalogs (such as Sears and Day-Timers).

Perhaps most gratifying — and somewhat surprising — was that only five catalogers are out of business altogether or fell off our radar screen. (Does anybody out there know what ever became of Infotel or Mac and Moore?)

All in all, we came away from our research with one overriding conclusion: Despite the troubles and travails of the past eight years, cataloging as an industry has grown and solidified. And that’s something to keep in mind during the inevitable troubles and travails ahead.

THRIVERS & SURVIVORS

1993
rank
Company 1992 sales#
($ millions)
Recent sales#
($ millions)
Market segment Fate
1 J.C. Penney Co. $2,992.7* $3,933.0 (2000) general merchandise slow growth but remains a steady force
4 Dell Computer Corp. $1,610.4 $31,888.0 (’00) computers has become the number-one cataloger in the U.S.
6 Spiegel $1,322.0 $1,711.2 (’00) general merchandise recent two-year profitability run
8 Lands’ End $697.0* $1,355.0 (’00) apparel rapid growth during the mid-’90s leveled off
9 L.L. Bean $662.0 $1,100.0 (’00) outdoor gear, apparel like Lands’ End, saw mid-’90s sales growth slow appreciably
11 Hanover Direct $586.6 $603.0 (’00) apparel, home goods built stable of nearly two dozen titles but now in divestiture mode
13 J. Crew Group $475.0* $284.8 (’00) apparel de-emphasizing catalogs in favor of retail and the Web
15 Premier/Farnell (Newark Electronics) $436.3* $626.0 (’00) industrial electronics (Newark only) thrived through a local, then regional catalog/phone/field sales approach
17 International Business Machines Corp. $400.0* $7,575.0*(’00) computers expanded its direct division to include catalog and Internet sales
19 Henry Schein $360.0 $2,381.7 (’00) dental, medical, and veterinary supplies foreign expansion, acquisitions fueled rapid growth throughout ’90s
22 McMaster Carr $308.0 $415.0* (1999) industrial electronics solid growth serving old-line plumbing industry
27 Sara Lee Direct $265.4* $208.0* (’99) apparel, accessories spun off Coach catalog last year, sold its interest in it this year
30 Neiman Marcus Group $237.0 $381.7 (’00) apparel, gifts, home decor strongest growth in recent years from Horchow and Chef’s Catalog
31 New England Business Service (NEBS) $234.6 $520.6 (’00) office and warehouse supplies made a number of acquisitions during the past few years
32 Bass Pro Shops $220.0* $325.0* (’99) outdoor sporting goods expanded further into retail, opening 10 huge tourist-driven stores
33 Bear Creek Corp. $210.0 $450.0 (’00) food, gardening, gifts continues to rely on Harry and David and Jackson & Perkins books for its steady growth
38 Foster & Gallagher $178.0 $325.0 (’00) gardening, gifts, children’s products developed a kids’ division that has struggled in recent years — and which it plans to sell
39 CDW Computer Centers $175.0 $3,800.0 (’00) computers meteoric growth spurred by CRM, multichannel marketing, and huge product assortment
41 Lillian Vernon Corp. $171.5 $246.6 (’00) general merchandise, personalized gifts founder Vernon has periodically sought the right person to continue her legacy, but has yet to find one
42 WearGuard/Aramark Corp. $162.5 $550.0* (’99) work apparel, public safety supplies parent firm Aramark bought police/firefighter supplier Gall’s in 1996
43 Global DirectMail/Systemax $152.0 $1.686.0 (’00) computers, industrial supplies manufacturing problems have hurt bottom line of late
44 PC Connection $150.0 $1,450.0 (’00) computers enjoyed 40% compounded annual growth since 1995
45 The Talbots $147.6 $269.0 (’00) women’s and children’s apparel after failed merchandise shift, returned successfully to more conservative apparel
46 Insight Enterprises $139.8 $2,041.1 (’00) computers phasing out catalogs in favor of direct telesales
50 Starcrest Products of California $125.0 $287.0 (’00) apparel developed stable of apparel tearsheet-catalog mailers
53 Cabela’s $122.5* $500.0* (’99) sporting goods bought rival catalog Gander Mountain in 1996
54 Black Box Corp. $121.6 $500.0 (’00) computer networking equipment acquired more than 60 small regional distributors since 1998
55 Lab Safety Supply/Grainger $120.0* $4,977.0 (’00) industrial supplies includes Grainger and Lab Safety Supply catalogs
56 Nasco International $120.0* $200.0* (’99) farm and educational supplies steady growth
57 Ross-Simons $115.5 $225.5 (’99) jewelry, gifts, home decor expanded to 13 stores; bought Geary’s catalog in late ’90s
58 ABC Distributing $115.0* $400.0* (’99) low-end wholesale gifts maintains mom-and-pop business approach
59 Williams-Sonoma $112.4* $685.2 (’00) housewares, home decor Pottery Barn has become company cash cow
61 Childcraft/Walt Disney Co. $101.0 $206.0 (’99) toys, gifts sold off the Childcraft and Playclothes catalogs in the mid-1990s
63 The Swiss Colony $97.0 $330.0* (’99) food, gifts added Seventh Avenue and Country Door titles, among others, to expand counterseasonal business
64 Reader’s Digest $94.1* $30.0* (’00) audio, video, gifts exited catalog business in the early 1990s, then bought Good Catalog Co. in 1999
65 Bloomingdale’s by Mail/Federated Department Stores $93.0 $1.940.0 (’00) apparel in 1999, parent firm Federated Department stores bought Fingerhut Cos., 2000 sales include Fingerhut, Macys.com, and Arizona Mail Order titles
68 Tiffany & Co. $89.5 $155.6 (’00) jewelry, gifts has expanded corporate catalog
69 Northern Hydraulics/Northern Tool & Equipment $89.4* $347.8 (’00) tools b-to-b now makes up 50% of company’s sales
70 Warshawsky/J.C. Whitney $85.5* $265.4* (’00) auto accessories dropped Warshawsky name in mid-’90s
73 Executive Greetings $82.0* $115.0 (’00) business greeting cards built up a stable of b-to-b titles in stationery and promotional products
80 Norm Thompson $77.0 $208.0 (’00) general merchandise remains privately held
81 U.S. Sales Corp. $75.0* $150.0* (’99) general merchandise steady sales growth
83 Golfsmith International $70.0 $140.0 (’99) golf equipment has built up retail chain
88 Hammacher Schlemmer $68.0 $160.0* (’99) consumer electronics sticking to its guns in offering high-end gadgets
89 Central Purchasing/Harbor Freight $68.0 n/a hardware operates the Harbor Freight catalog
91 Kaiser & Kraft/K+K America $66.5 $295.0 (’00) industrial supplies has built up stable of b-to-b books, including Conney Safety, Browncor, Hubert, and C+H Distributors
92 Nature’s Bounty/NBTY $65.0 $174.0 (’99) vitamins has fought off numerous charges questioning the validity of claims on its nutrition products
94 Orvis $62.1 $140.0* (’00) apparel, sporting goods steady growth, retained private ownership
96 Omaha Steaks $60.0 $284.0 (’00) food moved beyond steaks into gourmet meals through multichannel offering
98 Sport Supply Group $57.4 $111.5 (’00) sporting goods steady growth in institutional sporting goods market
99 Austad’s $56.5 n/a golf equipment bought by Hanover Direct in 1995, sold in ’99 to Mammoth Golf; former owner Dave Austad bought back the rights in ’00 and relaunched the catalog this past April
100 Multiple Zones International $56.0 $634.0 (’00) computers went public in 1996
# catalog and Internet sales only; *estimates

CLOSED OR MISSING

1993
rank
Company Market Fate
47 DAK Industries electronics housewares, folded in 1994 grew too rapidly
51 Misco computers bought by Global DirectMail in 1992; operations were merged into Global’s catalog business
74 Fastmicro computers went out of business in 1993
79 Infotel computers off our radar screen
84 Mac and Moore computers off our radar screen

UNDER NEW OWNERSHIP

1993
rank
Company Market Fate
4 Fingerhut Cos. general merchandise bought by Federated Department Stores in 1999
10 The Limited apparel broke out Brylane catalogs (including Lane Bryant and Lerner New York) and Intimate Brands (Victoria’s Secret) in 1993
18 Viking Office Products office supplies sold to superstore chain Office Depot in 1998
20 Quill Corp. office supplies sold to superstore giant Staples in 1998
21 Inmac computers sold to MicroWarehouse in 1996
23 New Hampton (Newport News, Brights Creek) apparel Spiegel bought Newport News in 1993; Brights Creek closed that year
24 Chadwick’s of Boston apparel sold to Brylane in 1996
26 MicroWarehouse computers sold to a private investor group in 1999
35 Zeos International computers merged in 1995 with computer hardware manufacturer/cataloger Micron Electronics
36 Arizona Mail Order apparel bought by Fingerhut Cos. in 1998
37 Reliable Corp. office supplies bought by Boise Cascade Office Products in 1997
66 Bedford Fair Industries apparel filed for Chapter 11 in 1997; bought by Fingerhut Cos. in 1999
67 Rivertown Trading gifts sold to Dayton-Hudson Corp. (now Target) in ’98
72 The Company Store coats, linens went into Chapter 11 in 1992; bought in mid-’90s by Hanover
78 MidWest Micro computer equipment bought by Systemax/Global Equipment in mid-1990s; now Systemax Manufacturing Co.
82 Walter Drake & Sons gifts sold to Foster & Gallagher in 1997
86 Artistic Greetings stationery sold to Taylor Corp., which also bought the Current and Paper Direct catalogs
87 Miles Kimball gifts became independent in a management buyout from Toronto-based Torstar in 1997
90 The Pleasant Co. dolls bought by toy manufacturer Mattel in 1998
95 Saks Fifth Avenue apparel bought by the department store chain formerly known as Proffitt’s in 1998

SHIFTED FOCUS

1993
rank
Company Market Fate
2 Sears, Roebuck & Co. general merchandise closed general merchandise book in 1993, but continues to market through specialty books
3 DEC Direct computers exited catalog business in 1997; remains manufacturer/distributor
7 Gateway computers stopped mass mailings of catalogs in 1998 in favor of retail and Web
12 Omega Scientific industrial electronics exited catalog business in 1993 in favor of direct distribution
14 Deluxe Corp. checks sold off its Current and Paper Direct catalogs and phased out its namesake book in 1998
16 Everex Systems computers shifted to a direct sales approach in 1993-’94
25 Damark International general merchandise exited the catalog business last year to focus on its buyers’ club business
28 CompuAdd computer components stopped mailing catalogs in the late ’90s, but still manufactures and distributes components
29 AARP pharmaceuticals no longer an active mailer
34 Borland International computers abandoned the catalog business in the mid-’90s
40 Apple Computer computers backed away from catalogs in the mid-1990s
48 Gander Mountain outdoor sporting goods catalog bought (and folded) by Cabela’s in 1996; remains an independent retailer
49 Day-Timers business planners focuses more heavily on direct mail than on catalogs
52 Northgate Computer computers manufacturer/distributor now sells to TV shopping channels and catalogers
60 America’s Pharmacy/Iowa Retired Person’s Pharmacy pharmaceuticals bought by AARP in 1997; no longer an active mailer
62 Egghead Software computer software dropped print book in mid-’90s, then closed stores in favor of the Web
71 Moore Business Systems business supplies phased out catalogs in late 1990s
75 CareerTrack seminars absorbed by Fred Pryor Seminars, which no longer relies on print catalogs
76 Suarez Corp. Industries general merchandise no longer dependent on catalogs
77 Safeguard Business Systems checks phased out catalog in mid-1990s in favor of direct sales
85 Myron business supplies, apparel closed Comfortably Yours catalog in mid-’90s; markets primarily through solo mailers and telemarketing
93 Scholastic Books educational materials phased out catalog in the early 1990s
97 Barnes & Noble Direct books direct sales come primarily from Website now