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Spiegel records 3Q loss; Otto named to DMA Hall of Fame

Downers Grove, IL — With retail sales tumbling in the midst of mounting consumer uncertainty — and hobbled by mounting bad-debt charge-offs in its big credit business — Spiegel Inc. recorded a third-quarter loss of $12.3 million, compared with a year-before profit of $13.5 million.

Overall sales at Spiegel, including retail and credit revenues, tumbled by 12.9 percent, to $703.8 million from $807.5 million last year. Retail sales at the direct-mail retailer fell by 10.8 percent, to $574.7 million from $644.0 million a year ago, with each of the company's four merchant divisions reporting sales weaknesses. Direct-mail sales were off by 13 percent, while sales in bricks-and-mortar stores fell by 7 percent. Internet sales continued to provide a big lift, jumping up by 42 percent.

Particularly hard hit was the Eddie Bauer division, where same-store sales fell by 15 percent, offset somewhat by sales growth in its outlet stores.

Putting earnings under further pressure, margins narrowed by 180 basis points, to 34.2 percent from 36.0 percent a year ago, due mostly to higher markdowns and additional marketing promotions at Eddie Bauer. But continued cost-cutting provided some measure of relief, and overhead was pared by 7.1 percent, to $326.8 million from $351.8 million last year.

In other company news, Michael Otto, chairman of The Spiegel Group's board of directors, has been inducted into the Direct Marketing Association's Hall of Fame, the highest professional honor in direct and interactive marketing.

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