Hedge fund acquires Popular Club

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A hedge fund managed by Larry Nusbaum, the CEO of Ronco, has acquired direct selling brand Popular Club at a foreclosure sale from Direct Marketing Services Inc. (DMSI).

The Popular Club model targets underserved markets, such as urban centers, giving working people without a credit card the opportunity to purchase items such as housewares, cosmetics, apparel and jewelry. The program enlists leaders to sell online and through a catalog. Leaders are eligible to earn rewards.

In the late 1990s, when the Fingerhut Companies acquired Popular Club for $43 million, its sales were $180 million and it had 660,000 customers. Today, there are 12,000 women in the club, according to Nusbaum, who is now chairman of Popular Club and interim CEO.

“Popular Club has been left to die for three consecutive years,” he said. However, by applying marketing best practices, Nusbaum believes his company can build the brand back up to where it was at its height.

Those strategies include print, online, affiliate marketing and infomercials — for which Ronco is well-known.

“We're in a market where you need to reach the customer from different touch points,” Nusbaum said. “Some people don't like to shop on the Web and you need to give them a different experience,” which is where infomercial and direct selling come in, he continued.

The company will also consider bringing the Ronco line of household products into the Popular Club catalog.

“Ronco serves the same market that Popular Club does,” Nusbaum said. “It's a great suburban [and] urban market serving the needs of offline, online at-home shoppers. No other catalog covers that.”

The new Popular Club catalog will be mailed this month.

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