Spiegel Shifts Lines to Stay in Tune With Customers

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Responding to customer feedback, Spiegel Inc. has updated apparel and home furnishings in the 5 million fall/winter big books that began mailing last month, and has even more changes planned for spring.


"We've identified that we have not really moved with the consumer," said Spiegel president/CEO Melissa Payner. "The two key issues were, we weren't looking at what was happening in [consumers'] lives and we weren't coming up with solutions for them. The other was, we didn't have a clear, differentiated style point of view."


The changes were made in response to surveys conducted late last year through focus groups and mailers to an undisclosed portion of its 3.3 million active customer file.


The apparel division, known for the formal style of its Onview clothing collection, has created the Modern Classic collection, which features business and relaxed apparel. The fall/winter book features a limited selection of Modern Classic clothing, and the spring book will split Onview and Modern Classic lines evenly.


"We're not going away from the Onview business," Payner said, "but we do believe there is another style that is more consistent with the masses, and we believe there is growth in that area."


In home furnishings, the cataloger has added a new line of urban modern furniture and has updated its country furniture collection. Payner said Spiegel has responded to customers asking for functional furniture to accommodate their lifestyles. Spiegel also introduced an eight-page section in the fall book called 4You, which features clothing that complements various body types. This section will increase in the spring mailing.


The fall/winter book also could be the last time consumers see top designer labels such as DKNY and Kenneth Cole, as the company looks to place more emphasis on its clothing line. Designer denim, however, will remain a staple.


Changes to its big books are just a few of the initiatives Spiegel is planning. It also will test small specialty catalogs for accessories and apparel. Spiegel would not comment on the number of books to be dropped or who will receive them. The specialty catalogs follow what the company said was a successful test of a small catalog last fall targeting younger shoppers.


Payner was among a team of executives brought in by former Spiegel catalog CEO John Irving in 1997 to turn the company around. Faced with nearly a 50 percent decrease in sales from 1995 to 1998 and a 45 percent drop in circulation, the company built a strategy to regain its footing.


But like many catalogers trying to overcome the slowing economy, Spiegel has seen declining sales. This month, it reported an 18 percent decrease in catalog sales, though its e-commerce business soared 46 percent. Overall, the company reported an 8 percent decrease in sales for the five weeks that ended June 30.


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