Lands' End Wants to Sell Willis & Geiger

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Lands' End, Dodgeville, WI, is seeking a buyer for the historic Willis & Geiger specialty catalog business.

"While we love the product and the catalog creative, the business has not lived up to our growth expectations, and we believe our resources will be used more effectively by focusing on our core business," said Michael J. Smith, Lands' End president/CEO.

Willis & Geiger, a 96-year-old brand of outerwear, was founded by Ben Willis, who helped developed the first official-issue U.S. Army flight jacket. The brand was reportedly worn by Teddy Roosevelt, Charles Lindbergh, Dwight D. Eisenhower and many other notables over the decades.

Lands' End acquired assets and the trademark for the business for everywhere except Asia, from Japanese company D'Urban in 1994, said Charlotte LaComb, manager of investor relations. The cost of the transaction was never disclosed.

At the time of the acquisition, the company was a wholesale operation that sold to some upscale department stores and catalogs, LaComb said. Lands' End reconfigured the company into a catalog operation. The resulting catalog, based in Madison, WI, is geared toward the adventurer and history buff, with photographs and lengthy copy that recall clothing worn by troops and adventurers in past years.

Annual sales for the most recent fiscal year were $12.3 million. There are currently 16 Lands' End employees working in the Willis & Geiger division. If they aren't offered positions with the new company, or decide not to stay with the company under new ownership, attempts will be made to find suitable positions for them within Lands' End.

Lands' End will continue to operate Willis & Geiger while searching for a buyer.

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