Fingerhut Catalog Returns Next Month

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Fingerhut is coming back.


The book that was part of the catalog landscape for years returns with the holiday 2002 issue mailing Nov. 9. In addition, Fingerhut Direct Marketing will launch Fingerhut.com within the next month.


Company chairman Ted Deikel is cautiously optimistic about reaction to the new book. It has been almost a year since the last Fingerhut catalog mailed.


"The business will be ramped up in the coming months based on the response of the first mailing," said a statement issued by the company this week.


Fingerhut Direct Marketing Inc. is owned and operated by FAC Acquisitions, whose principals are Deikel, who was Fingerhut chief executive from 1974-85 and 1990-99, and Tom Petters. FAC closed a deal to acquire the Fingerhut name, Web site, inventory and other assets from Federated Department Stores in July. Terms of the acquisition were not announced. Federated acquired Fingerhut for $1.7 billion in 1999.


The cover of the 216-page holiday 2002 book announces that it is "Just in time for the holidays" under the Fingerhut name that appears across the top of the book. An offer of "NO Payments until March 2003 on your NEW pre-approved Fingerhut Credit Account!" is displayed prominently. Other promises on the cover include: FREE GIFT with any purchase!; Guaranteed Christmas Delivery! On orders received by 12/16/02; and a 30 DAY Home Trial.


Mary Pernula, executive vice president of public relations at The Petters Group, Minnetonka, MN, refused to comment about specifics on the new catalog, including the number of copies; number of SKUs; costs related to the book and Web site; forecasts for average order size and response rate; credit limits; and the average annual household income of customers.


"We are targeting the traditional Fingerhut customer," said Pernula, who listed housewares, electronics, domestics and toys as categories in the general merchandise catalog.


The St. Cloud (MN) Times reported that Fingerhut is targeting its former customer base, which included consumers with substandard credit. The company is providing revolving credit internally, the report said, and there are plans for company stores to reopen in St. Cloud and Minnetonka within a month.


DM News catalog columnist Bill Dean called the return of the catalog "a natural."


"What they bought was a database of catalog customers," he said. "Everybody knows that to drive traffic to the Internet you've got to put out a catalog. The typical Fingerhut customer may not be as wired to the Internet as the general population. Whoever bought it would have to bring back the catalog, and it's more of a natural since Deikel has been there before.


"Catalogers like to feel it's wonderful that their customers are sitting there waiting for the postman to show up with their catalog, but people know that you go on and off catalog mailings all the time.


"All the news about what Federated did may increase the readership to see what it's all about. But while the publicity may help, it could also hurt, since people may mentally remember that the thing was closing and may not remember why. Now it's being opened again, and people may say, 'If I place an order, what's the probability that it will be shipped?'"


Dean called it vital that management conveys the message that this is a solid revitalization of the business.


"I would include a letter from Ted Deikel saying 'my father-in-law, Manny Fingerhut, started it,'" Dean said. "I would use something like, 'You can trust dear old Ted since I've run it twice before successfully and I'll do it again.'"


Petters and Deikel relocated their offices to the former Fingerhut headquarters in Minnetonka that they bought in July. The company said it plans to fill positions in Minnetonka and St. Cloud, which is home to fulfillment operations for Fingerhut Direct Marketing and other entities owned by Deikel and Petters. The Pioneer Press in St. Paul, MN, reported that Deikel said Fingerhut may hire 50 to 60 employees in the next month.


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