Eddie Bauer targets Germany

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MUNICH - Eddie Bauer Germany will drop five catalogs this year compared to only two in 1997 and add stores in Munich and Berlin this fall to swell its retail network to nine. 1997 retail and mail order sales totaled 60 million German marks ($33.3 million).

The company, a granddaughter of Otto Versand, the worlds' largest mail order house, through parent company Spiegel, has been in Germany for the last three years trying to establish the Eddie Bauer brand.

Unlike the US parent, the German company limits the goods it offers to Eddie Bauer's sportswear line, but uses the US catalog - with copy translated - in doing so. German catalogs are smaller than the standard 200 page US version.

"Eddie Bauer has not yet been identified as an American brand on the German market," CEO Manfred Ritter said, "but we're working on it and all our catalogs end with the English tagline 'an American legend since 1920.'"

This year the company dropped a spring and summer catalog of 116 pages each and plans three new books in 1998's second half. Fall Resource hits the mails in September. Winter Resource goes out in October and Holiday Resource in November.

Each of the new catalogs will have 150 pages and each will hit the theme "wear it now," meaning that the books offer seasonal clothing.

"In Germany mailers traditionally send out thick catalogs twice a year and do so as early as possible, while we want to offer customers clothes for the appropriate season."

Ritter said the company is shifting emphasis from the mail order to the retail business and plans to have 50 stores in place within the next five years with turnover growth in the double digits.

While Ritter refused to divulge how many catalogs Eddie Bauer was dropping - the number was 500,000 in 1995 - he said that catalogs were the only marketing vehicle right now.

"But we are thinking about talking directly to our retail customers," he said, "and are planning a test for the second half of this year. Our situation here is a little more complicated than in the US because we don't have addresses for them.

"We actively have to collect them in the stores. We have developed a couple of in-store response mechanisms. Customers are given an opinion cards on which they can tell us how they liked product, service and store décor."

A second response mechanism is entitled "for friends" and allows customers to order an Eddie Bauer catalog for themselves, family and friends. All names are put in the company's database.

While Otto's hardware and systems are used to store and maintain data, Eddie Bauer maintains its own database for legal reasons since German law does not allow commingling of names.

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