Can Eddie Bauer Successfully Return to Its Roots?

Eddie Bauer made its name by offering high performance outdoor apparel and gear. The nearly 90-year-old company began a slow downward spiral in the late 1980s when catalog retailer Spiegel purchased Eddie Bauer and transformed the brand to market women's apparel. After a less than stellar run as a retail brand, Eddie Bauer filed for bankruptcy and eventually was spun off from Spiegel.

Now, the Eddie Bauer brand is seeking to return to its roots. It is launching a line of mountaineering gear and apparel in April called First Ascent. The line's name seems to hold significance as it is Eddie Bauer's first ascent toward the standing the brand once held in the minds of consumers. The problem is that Eddie Bauer moved so far away from its position of offering high performance outdoor gear that a return to that standing will be difficult. Many younger consumers may not be familiar with Eddie Bauer's heritage and thus skeptical about the brand's move toward the outdoor lifestyle (even though that is its heritage).

Eddie Bauer's dilemma has some similarity with the story of Izod. The prestige of the Izod brand was tarnished by a mass marketing approach to distribution by Izod's owner in the 1970s and 1980s, General Mills. The brand was divested, but by that time the damage had been done. While Izod has since made strides to be perceived as an exclusive brand once again, it has never fully recovered from the market saturation approach of General Mills. Now, Eddie Bauer must set out to convince consumers it is again a serious player in the outdoor lifestyle market, not just a women's clothing brand. The Eddie Bauer brand has a rich heritage; can it successfully summon associations from its past to compete with today's performance outdoor gear?

Link: The Wall Street Journal - "Eddie Bauer Returns to Roots"

Labels: ,