August 27, 2008, 12:00 AM

With Swiss Colony as parent, Montgomery Ward brand blossoms anew

Founded in 1872 as the first retail mail-order catalog, the Montgomery Ward brand will re-emerge this month as a retail e-commerce site operated by its new parent, The Swiss Colony Inc. Swiss Colony acquired the Charles Keath and HomeVisions brands as well as Montgomery Ward from Direct Marketing Services Inc. It plans print catalogs as well as e-commerce sites.

It’s the brand that just won’t quit. Montgomery Ward, founded in 1872 as the first retail mail-order catalog, will re-emerge a second time this month as a retail e-commerce site operated by its new parent, The Swiss Colony Inc.

The relaunch by Swiss Colony, which acquired the venerable brand last month from Chicago-based Direct Marketing Services Inc. at an undisclosed price in a foreclosure sale, will mark the second time Montgomery Ward has re-surfaced this decade. In 2001, Direct Marketing acquired the rights to the retail brand after the original Montgomery Ward company ceased operations, then relaunched the brand in 2004 as a retail e-commerce site.

Swiss Colony is bullish on the value of Montgomery Ward as both an e-commerce and catalog retailer, says Swiss Colony president John Baumann. “Wards is still pretty well known, and we hope to expand its product lines,” he says. The new Montgomery Ward e-commerce site will retain the former site’s web address, Wards.com.

Swiss Colony also has acquired from Direct Marketing the Charles Keath and HomeVisions home furnishings brands. It plans to relaunch Charles Keath with an e-commerce site and print catalog, but has yet to set plans for HomeVisions, Baumann says.

Swiss Colony, based in Monroe, Wis., acquired and will operate the Direct Marketing Services brands through Midwest Catalog Brands Inc., a Swiss Colony subsidiary. In addition to its new brands and its main Swiss Colony brand, the company maintains a retail presence through seven subsidiaries: apparel retailers Seventh Avenue, Midnight Velvet, and Monroe and Main; home furnishings retailers Ginny’s and Country Door; and food and gift retailers The Tender Filet and ilovefruitcake.com.

paul@verticalwebmedia.com

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