Editorial: The Year in Cataloging, So Far

The year isn’t half over, and already we’ve seen the biggest news we’re going to see in cataloging, with Federated Department Stores’ announcement to close Fingerhut and Sears buying Lands’ End for $1.9 billion. Perhaps speakers at this week’s catalog show will offer some insight. Let’s recap the top stories:

The year’s biggest fiasco began when Federated said in January that it had done all it could and was closing Fingerhut “unless a buyer is found within days.” Those days stretched into five months as former Fingerhut CEO Ted Deikel and Tom Petters have tried to buy a portion of the company. This comes after a deal from Business Development Group Acquisitions disintegrated last month. Silent since day one, maybe we’ll hear a few words from Fingerhut president Michael Sherman, who is scheduled to be on a panel discussion today discussing, appropriately, “Tough Tactics for Turbulent Times.”

Not very often does a cataloger appear before the U.S. Supreme Court, but one will this fall. In April, the justices decided to hear a trademark case involving Victoria’s Secret and a similarly named store in Elizabethtown, KY, that sells lingerie and adult-themed items. Former president/CEO Cynthia Fields is Wednesday’s keynoter.

On May 1, J. Crew Group said CEO Mark Sarvary left the company “by mutual agreement.” That same day, 25 percent of the staff at J. Crew’s New York headquarters was reportedly laid off. No doubt hastening Sarvary’s departure was the fact that revenue plunged 35 percent last year. The big announcement from Sears and Lands’ End came later that month. Yes, the deal gives Sears a much-needed boost up the fashion ladder. Yes, Lands’ End immediately gains the retail outlets it was looking for – 870, to be exact. But will Sears let Lands’ End do its thing or will it follow Federated’s lead? That jury will be out for some time.

Finally, Spiegel finishes this half of the year by being delisted on the Nasdaq stock market because it is delinquent in filing financial information. Sales have been in a funk — down 24 percent last month — for years, and its credit card problems mirror Fingerhut’s (and could be partly why BDGA’s bid fell apart). Still, Spiegel is expected to emerge from this intact: majority stakeholder — Germany’s Otto family — has some pretty deep pockets.

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