Lands' End Pampers Itself With Product Line

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Lands' End, Dodgeville, WI, which spent the past year scaling back its catalog circulation and reducing products and styles to focus on updating its entire product line, will shortly unveil some of those changes in core and specialty catalogs.

Its first glimpse of that future is a redesigned and expanded Coming Home, its specialty bed and bath products catalog.

Many new products in Coming Home Early Spring 2000, which mails the week of Jan. 24, fall into a category dubbed spa accessories, which includes items like aromatherapy candles and soaps, massaging bath brushes and body lotions. The Coming Home renovation also includes merchandising and design changes, including new photography and layouts and adding models to some product shots.

"The photography in the early spring issue is softer and richer," said Deborah Barney, vice president of Coming Home at Lands' End.

The company's core catalog, which also incorporates photography and creative refinements that have been under way for several months, will soon unveil significant additions and changes to the existing line.

"Most of the changes have been taking place on three fronts," said Lee Eisenberg, executive vice president, creative director at Lands' End, who described the process as a gradual evolution in creative, merchandising and online.

Eisenberg, who joined the newly installed Lands' End management team a year ago and reports directly to president/CEO David F. Dyer, was imported from outside the catalog industry to lead the evolution. He began an editorial career at Esquire magazine, moving through the ranks to the top editorial post there and had most recently served as editor/creative development for Time magazine.

The cataloger, which announced a major reorganization in January 1999 after continued weak sales and declining profits and the ouster of then-president Michael Smith, experienced an earnings surge under Dyer's leadership. By fall, the good news began to fade and the numbers slipped again as the impact of its long-term strategies aimed at improving sales affected the short-term financial picture.

The strategy to update its image necessitated a 20-percent reduction in catalog circulation and a significant reduction in the number of products offered to manage inventory. The idea was to pare the entire apparel line in preparation for new introductions. At the same time, e-commerce, which accounts for 10 percent of sales, has been an area of intense focus as the cataloger, like most marketers, attempts to shift a portion of sales to the Web.

Lands' End has a database of close to 30 million names and mails more than 200 million catalogs a year, including 12 issues of its core catalog as well the specialty books such as Kids and Coming Home.

The first changes to its core book will be unveiled next month, with new men's merchandise featured. In March, new women's products will be introduced, and May will feature changes to its swimwear line.

"Throughout the year, every catalog will carry some new introduction," Eisenberg said. "In fall, you'll be seeing a significant number of refreshed Lands' End merchandise for men and women."

Those changes, he said, will embody Lands' End's quality but will incorporate stylish, more contemporary fabrics and components. "We've spent a vast amount of time and effort to get these products to fit better and flatter more," he said.

This week, the company reported disappointing holiday sales results. Net sales overall for the eight weeks ended Dec. 24 totaled $352 million, a 14.6 percent decrease from the same period last year. The sales dip was greater than anticipated by the company, based on the planned circulation reduction. Core business segment sales declined about 22 percent, while the specialty catalog segment was down 14 percent.

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