The remaining assets of Panache, the now-defunct catalog of home-entertaining accoutrements, are scheduled to be auctioned on April 10. Founded in fall 1998, Panache mailed its final catalog this past fall; its Website has been nonoperational since late last year.
The Libertyville, IL-based business started off strongly, says direct marketing consultant John Lenser, who had worked with founders Don Hedberg and his late wife, Geraldine, on the catalog. The debut edition achieved a response rate of $2.67 a book. Within three years, Panache has annual sales of $12 million.
But response declined following 9/11. The company needed substantial financial backing to sustain growth, Lenser says. But “last year you couldn’t get anybody to buy anything,” he adds. “Part of it was the banks wouldn’t loan money to assist in sales. Nothing really moved last year, and even now it’s a difficult environment to attract investment capital or sell a catalog for premium value.” Don Hedberg was left with no choice but to close the business, Lenser says.