Spiegel Takes Fashion Forward
Melissa Payner is a risk-taker. The 43-year-old retail industry veteran has been president and CEO of Spiegel Catalog for only 10 months and already has turned the place on its head with new merchandising, catalog creative, advertising and promotions.
It doesn’t matter that the economy remains in a slump and catalog industry sales are down: Payner is excited to be breathing new life into Spiegel Catalog by refocusing on its customers and strengthening its brand image.
There’s no arguing that Spiegel needed a change when Payner took the reins. Looking back five or six years, one might describe the catalog’s branding as “neither here nor there.”
Its positioning wasn’t decidedly upscale nor downscale, not sophisticated or trendy, but somewhere in the middle. And for a cataloger today, that’s not a good place to be. To survive and thrive in the current marketplace, catalogers must have a strong brand identity.
Payner started to impact the business in 1997 as vice president, merchandise. By the time she was promoted to president and CEO of Spiegel Catalog in December 2000, the company was doing a healthy $833 million in business, up 16 percent from the prior year, and had been through a recent turnaround.
Although sales were good, Payner knew Spiegel needed a stronger brand foundation to continue to be successful. While Spiegel had a wealth of customers on its file and substantial revenues, what it desperately needed was a brand makeover.
1997: The Beginning of a Turnaround
Four years ago, Payner was hired to be a part of the turnaround team charged with breathing new life into Spiegel Catalog Inc.
Recalls Payner: “What I believe had happened over a decade or so was we had been very forward-thinking in terms of identifying working women as a segment to target. But then we became very inward-looking and failed to see the next trend—where our customers were going.”