Spiegel's Last Gasp?

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I doubt that we'll be seeing Carrie or Samantha flipping through Spiegel's revamped Big Book in one of the final episodes of "Sex and the City." Still, after paging through the catalog, I must say I was impressed with the new look and several of the added features. It seems like the company got a lot of things right, though with $1.5 billion in debt hanging over Spiegel's head, it's probably too late for the bankrupt cataloger.

If the products haven't been upgraded, the photography and presentation certainly made it seem that way. Overall, several things work in the new catalog: the addition of tips and how-tos, using celebrity fashion expert Wayne Scot Lukas and chef David Burke as well as the Sharper Image and Harry & David tie-ins. If only Spiegel's ad campaign could make it socially acceptable to buy from the catalog once again. Spiegel Group said lower demand and falling circulation led to a 42 percent drop in the company's overall catalog and Internet sales last month. Most women have already written off Spiegel. That will be hard to counteract.

In announcing the makeover, Spiegel said the new catalog is a "one-stop shopping destination. ... [W]omen can find a new suit for work, buy a new bed for her pet, purchase a necklace for her mother-in-law, order a gift basket for her colleague and book the family vacation - all through Spiegel." However, being a general merchandise cataloger isn't working these days as they continue to lose ground to specialty books. Think about J.C. Penney and Sears and the problems they're having. If this is what women really want, Spiegel has a lot of convincing to do.

Numbers Game

Though I haven't signed up for the national no-call registry, I'm finding it harder not wanting to add my name - and it's not because I'm getting more calls as a result of fewer people on calling lists. My problem: The revision to the Telephone Sales Rule requiring every outbound solicitation call to transmit the number of the seller or service bureau and, if technologically able, the name of the seller or service bureau. Most telemarketers have already started doing this ... so instead of seeing "Unknown Caller" and letting my phone go unanswered, I get area codes like 313 and 480 but no name and wonder whether it's a friend or a telemarketer. (I guess telemarketers aren't "technologically able.") With autodial, redial and speed calling, I thought we didn't have to be walking Rolodexes any more.

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