Bear Creek Closes Northwest Express Catalog

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Northwest Express, the 8-year-old apparel, accessories and gifts catalog owned by Bear Creek Corp., Medford, OR, has ceased its catalog and Web operations.


Bear Creek operates print catalog, retail outlet, wholesale and e-commerce divisions. The business-to-business and business-to-consumer company's two other catalog titles are fruit and gourmet foods book Harry and David, one of the best-known catalogs in that segment and known for its Fruit-of-the-Month Club; and rose and garden-related products catalog Jackson & Perkins.


The company sent e-mails to customers telling them that while "breaking up is hard to do," they can still visit Harry and David's Web site, www.harryanddavid.com. According to Northwest Express' Web site, www.northwestexpress.com, some of its products will be available on sale at Harry and David's site.


Several calls made to Bear Creek were not returned.


Bill Dean, founding partner of catalog consultancy W.A. Dean & Associates, San Francisco, said that though Bear Creek is "a pretty astute" marketer, there were a few reasons he wasn't surprised that the merchant had halted the Northwest Express business.


Northwest Express competed in a crowded market, which includes titles such as Coldwater Creek and Norm Thompson. Also, he said, Bear Creek did not adequately identify itself as owner of Northwest Express in the catalog.


"They may not have been leveraging as well as they could their strong relationship with their customer base," Dean said.


Finally, knowledge of and success in one segment of the catalog industry does not ensure success in another.


"Just because you know how to pick pears and plant rose bushes doesn't mean you really know how to pick garments," Dean said.


Bear Creek was founded by Harry and David Rosenberg in 1934. The company went public in 1976 and was acquired by R.J. Reynolds, Winston-Salem, NC, for $74.1 million eight years later. Shaklee Corp., Pleasanton, CA, bought Bear Creek in 1986, and three years later Shaklee was acquired by Tokyo-based Yamanouchi Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd.


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