NEW YORK — Fabian Mansson, who became president and chief executive officer of the struggling Eddie Bauer division of The Spiegel Group on Thursday, wants to reposition the brand "in line with its outdoor heritage."

The Seattle-based retail and catalog firm has been grappling with design directions and difficulties connecting with consumers, emphasizing casual sportswear, including some career casual, and has been closing more stores than it’s been opening. Sales dipped to $1.6 billion last year, from $1.75 the year before. For most of this year, comp-sales have been declining in the double digits, though for June they were down 6 percent.

The newsconfirms a WWD report June 20 that the 38-year-old former Hennes & Mauritz ceo would succeed Richard T. Fersch, who left Eddie Bauer last January.

In an interview, Mansson said a turnaround of the Bauer operation requires paying attention to product details, fixing the whole brand statement and "reestablishing our authority in outdoor categories."

Mansson is tackling a tough assignment, complicated by the departure of Steve Newman, Bauer’s president of apparel, who resigned for personal reasons, a spokeswoman said.

Mansson said a turnaround would take a while, declining to specify a time frame. "Then there are aspects of customers being confused a little about where Eddie Bauer stands," he added. "We have to position the brand as an old friend coming back." He also acknowledged that it would take two quarters in a row of positive performance before confidently declaring a turnaround. Mansson, a native of Stockholm, will report to Martin Zaepfel, vice chairman, president and ceo of The Spiegel Group.

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