Spiegel is one of the USA's leading direct
marketing or catalog companies. It started as a "wareroom"
in downtown Chicago and is now a $3 billion international,
tri-channel specialty retailer. Despite the challenges
of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, two economic
depressions, and two world wars, Spiegel kept going.
Spiegel's founder, the German-born Joseph Spiegel,
started a home furnishings company in Chicago that
would eventually become one of the most important
firms in the mail-order industry, just after the
Civil War. In 1904, Joseph and his son Arthur decided
to move into mail order. The company mailed out
its first catalog in 1905. 20 years later, it had
over 10 million customers. By 1929, the Spiegel
family's company (which by then sold women's clothing
as well as furniture) was selling over $20 million
in goods per year through the mail. A strategy of
generous consumer credit, low prices, and high volume
allowed Spiegel to accomplish the remarkable feat
of expanding its operations during the Great Depression.
In 1982, Spiegel was bought by Michael Otto, who
took it public in 1987. In March 2003, Spiegel Inc.
filed for reorganization under the bankruptcy code.
The next year, the Spiegel and Newport News catalog
businesses were sold to a group headed by Golden
Gate Capital Partners and Pangea Holdings Ltd.,
while the reorganizing company retained its
Eddie Bauer unit
and eventually assumed its name. Since 2004, Spiegel
and the women's fashion catalog Newport News have
operated under the name Spiegel Brands, Inc.
Spiegel once operated freestanding department stores.