Eddie Bauer gets update to battle dwindling sales

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Eddie Bauer Inc. built its brand on World War II bomber jackets designed to withstand the arctic, but the company's latest adventure centers on combating sagging sales.

The retailer's new fall print campaign from Lowe Lintas & Partners Worldwide, San Francisco, breaks in September issues of two dozen magazines, including Fast Company, Men's Journal, Money and National Geographic Traveler. A TV campaign -- including one spot featuring a tomato festival in Europe -- is slated to break next year.

Spending will remain at last year's levels -- $23 million, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

The print ads feature photos of leather jacket-clad individuals doing things such as crossing the Brooklyn Bridge or riding a Manhattan ferry. Ads include a box with the Eddie Bauer signature and the new tagline "Experience based." The box also notes the retailer's clothing is available in stores, catalogs and on the Web at eddiebauer.com.


Eddie Bauer, a unit of Spiegel, has been struggling with dwindling sales for several years. Despite several quarters in which it showed improved same-store sales, declines began to reappear last month with sales in stores open for more than one year dropping 12%, according to the retailer.

"Our business is not very strong right now," said Jack Sansolo, exec VP-global brand direction. Mr. Sansolo noted the retailer's biggest challenge is to update the brand while not alienating its customers -- "soccer moms and dads," or men and women between the ages of 35 and 54 who are well-educated with above-average incomes and live primarily in the suburbs.

"We are looking at how you modernize this brand in a way that is consistent with its roots and appropriate for the classics customer," he said.

In addition to the new tagline, Eddie Bauer will make a number of changes in its Web presence, starting with an overhauled Web site allowing for one-click shopping for entire outfits or bedding. It also is launching the home furnishings site fullhome.com, and relaunching the discount site eddiebaueroutlet. com.

In early September, it will launch an online magazine, EB360, with articles on lifestyle topics, such as taking time for yourself.

"It gives us back our edge online," said Mr. Sansolo.

On the brick-and-mortar front, the retailer is redesigning its stores to eliminate some of the rugged outdoor elements -- such as canoes used for decoration and as display shelves.

Two new design concepts under test include a larger store dubbed the "ultimate" store, and a new prototype mall store that will open this fall.

"When you make the outdoor experience that concrete, people pigeonhole you," said Mr. Sansolo.


Eddie Bauer's competition ranges from strong catalog and online players such as Lands' End and L.L. Bean Inc., which is now making a store-based push, to mall neighbors such as The Gap and department stores.

While many of those competitors are relying on price and item advertising and sales, Eddie Bauer is sticking with a branding presence.

"They understand the power of their brand," said Marcy Moriconi, senior VP-group account director at Lowe.

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