Hanover reworks home

Anthony Guerra, August 23, 2004

Hanover Direct, Inc. is focused on improving all its businesses, but singled out a long-term commitment to home-related properties, while reminding any would-be suitors that offers on non-home catalogs would be welcomed, the board of directors told shareholders at its annual meeting.

Though it was once emphatic on selling some properties, Wayne Garten, Hanover Direct president and CEO, said a lack of reasonable offers forced the company to rethink its strategy, retrench, and go back to focusing on running those businesses until a reasonable offer comes along.

"We were attempting to sell assets quickly and buyers are not fools," he said.

Following the company's influx of cash from Chelsea Capital, he said vendor relationships are better but require work and focus. "This will not change overnight," he said.

Garten, who returned to Hanover in the beginning of May, described the Company Store catalog as "profitable," with flat sales over the past few years that have recently taken an upswing. He added that Company Store growth had also been limited by insufficient inventory.

Garten described the Domestications catalog as one that has been in decline over the last eight years due to its being co-managed with Company Store instead of having a separate management staff.

"Domestications is clearly a business that has lost its focus," said Garten, adding that circulation for the catalog is 25 percent lower than last year and will continue to decline for the remainder of this year.

The rudderless situation at Domestications was righted a few weeks ago when the company hired Charles Pellenberg to take over as president of the ailing catalog that he founded in the early '80s.

One of Pellenberg's main roles, said Garten, is reworking the catalog's product mix, something that both men think will take time.

Pellenberg said: "You will see small changes every day. I will work as fast as possible, but there are timelines to consider in relation to inventory and supply chain — even some domestic manufacturers have things coming from overseas. So those factors may prohibit fast change, but I will move as fast as I can," he said.

Garten also addressed the company's Internet strategy, noting that the lack of inventory has constricted growth there as well.

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