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Golden Gate Buys Norm Thompson

Multichannel merchant Norm Thompson Outfitters Inc. was acquired by Golden Gate Capital, owner of Spiegel, Newport News, Appleseed's and other catalogs, the San Francisco-based private equity investment firm said yesterday. The sales price was not disclosed.

Norm Thompson's annual sales are $200 million. The acquisition was completed by Golden Gate's portfolio company, Catalog Holdings Inc., which now has annual revenues exceeding $700 million.

Norm Thompson was founded in 1949 and has its headquarters in Hillsboro, OR. Through the brands Norm Thompson, Solutions and Sahalie, it targets the growing baby boomer market with a selection of apparel, accessories, travel items, gourmet foods, household goods and outdoors gear.

“With the addition of Norm Thompson, Solutions and Sahalie, we have significantly increased our offerings to this rapidly growing demographic,” Golden Gate Capital managing director Stefan Kaluzny said in a statement. “Furthermore, adding Norm Thompson's three brands to our five existing titles creates ever greater opportunities for each to benefit from the scale and expertise of the group.”

Though a well-respected name in the industry, Norm Thompson has faced difficult times lately. The company repositioned its catalog last fall with a wider selection of unique and exclusive items to try to turn around declining response rates, as reported in DM News.

“Escape from the ordinary” has been Norm Thompson's tagline since its inception, but in recent years the company chose to include more value-priced items in an attempt to raise response rates. Instead, “we saw our average order size decline and started to see an erosion in response rates,” marketing vice president Craig Dewey said last summer.

The company recommitted itself to offering merchandise that can't be found in the competition or at department stores. Unsurprisingly, price points underwent a concurrent increase. However, the merchant's holiday 2005 response rates and orders were each down 12 percent, according to a March 10 article on the Portland Business Journal's Web site, portland.bizjournals.com. The article, which predicted Norm Thompson would announce a sale this week, cited e-mails sent to employees by CEO John Emrick and Dewey.

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