While Fingerhut was a powerhouse in the catalog space throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the current decade has seen the business face many difficulties.
The company was one of the first to invest in business intelligence capabilities. This enabled it to build sophisticated consumer models.
Fingerhut was also one of the first catalog companies to see potential in the Internet, operating not only its own Web sites but also investing in several pure-play e-commerce sites and building an e-commerce fulfillment services business that counted Wal-Mart as a customer.
It was this e-commerce infrastructure that attracted Federated Department Stores, which acquired Fingerhut in 1999 for $1.7 billion. However, once the dot-com bust occurred a couple of years later, the investment in Fingerhut – which had a strategy that ran counter to Federated's middle-income positioning – no longer made sense.
Fingerhut was acquired by a former CEO, Theodore Deikel, and investor Thomas Petters in 2002, who returned the catalog to the mail that holiday season after a year-long absence.