Levenger to Open Shop in Chicago Marshall Field's

Stationery products cataloger Levenger Co. will open a shop in Marshall Field's flagship Chicago department store in September as part of a new strategy to gain wider retail ubiquity.

The 2,300-square-foot shop on the first floor of the Marshall Field's State Street outpost will be Levenger's second retail presence after its headquarters store in Delray Beach, FL.

“It's a natural progression for Levenger,” said Tracy Lamb, marketing director of the company. “Over the past 16 years, we've sent out millions of catalogs with thousands of products that are part of a proprietary line. This is how we built our brand.

“We had an early and successful integration of our Web presence in 1996,” she said. “Now is the right time for Levenger to expand into retail.”

The store will sell Levenger's high-end reading and writing products, an eclectic collection of function and whimsy. This includes small leather goods, custom reading tools, mobile furniture, briefcases and, of course, fountain pens.

“We have strong-selling products in each of our merchandise categories, and they'll all be represented in the Marshall Field's store,” Lamb said.

A privately held company, Levenger is reluctant to disclose catalog metrics. But it does have a 12-month house file of 320,000 buyers. The company mails monthly, dropping 25 million catalogs yearly. Average order size is $135.

Online, the site at www.levenger.com attracts 225,000 visits a day, according to the company.

For Marshall Field's, Levenger is another catch as its tries to reposition its State Street store as a hub for new concepts and luxury merchandise. British shirt maker Thomas Pink, New York home designer Thomas O'Brien and a London counterpart, Designer's Guild, have signed up for boutiques within the State Street store.

Soon, luxury stationery seller Papyrus will open at the same department store. Even online companies like Yahoo and Procter & Gamble Co.'s Reflect.com cosmetics site plan their first bricks-and-mortar stores.

In addition, Marshall Field's will partner with Chicago designers and icons as well as feature regular community events.

With such changes, Marshall Field's makes clear its intent to overhaul every floor of its State Street store. It also will improve signage, merchandise presentation, visuals and sound as it seeks to become the leading retail attraction in Chicago, perhaps rivaling its higher-end competitor, Neiman Marcus.

“Their 'house of brands' strategy for their State Street store was a powerful lure, plus we have a stronger customer base in the Chicago area,” Lamb said.

Marshall Field's will charge Levenger rent for the presence in the store.

Target Corp. owns Marshall Field's, a 150-year-old department store chain with $2.7 billion revenue generated last year from 62 stores nationwide and www.fields.com.

Levenger is still working on promotions to alert customers and prospects about its expansion into Marshall Field's. But it views this deal as one of many.

“The arrangement we have with Marshall Field's is not an exclusive one,” Lamb said. “If other opportunities are right, we'll explore them.”

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