NEW YORK — Come spring, Newport News is sailing in a new direction.While not a complete change of course, the catalog being mailed to homes Jan. 6 is the result of months of rebranding under the leadership of Geralynn Madonna, who became president and chief operating officer of Newport News last January.The new book features a glossy, magazine-like format, a bigger push on fashion and is the product of comprehensive customer research."It’s really about elevating our brand and positioning it as a fashion leader," said Madonna, in an interview at the Newport News offices here at 711 Third Avenue. "The new catalog has much more of an editorial voice with new layout designs that give her more reason to purchase. Our customer loves getting our catalog and she likes to look at it like a magazine."To be more entertaining, new spreads such as "Splurges and Steals," "Must Haves" and "Trend Report" were added, as well as a "Question & Answer" section where customers can try to solve their fashion blunders.Each catalog will focus on a different fashion dilemma, with the inaugural issue providing shoppers with style advice on what to wear to work. The January issue will also feature the company’s more updated and modernized Newport News logo for the first time.By making the catalog — featuring some higher-priced pieces like leather and suede "Splurge" items — more reader friendly, Madonna said the firm aims to attract a broader, more affluent customer base, while also maintaining its core audience."Many catalogs focus on merchandise-heavy spreads, but we want to engage our customers in a unique way to deliver what they’ve told us they want," explained Madonna. "The new catalog offers women an enhanced shopping experience, while also offering the same on-trend, versatile, quality apparel that Newport News is known for. It’s about taking the trends and interpreting them for this customer who is feminine and very much alive and wants fun, colorful clothes."Newport News, owned by The Spiegel Group, has sales of $449 million, 20 percent of which are online. There are 36 catalogs produced each year, distributed to 254 million homes.While Newport News steadily increased its market share between 1993 and 2000, the company faced a more challenging economic environment in 2001. Sales productivity suffered as lower customer response to catalog mailings led to a 6 percent decline for the year, according to Spiegel Group’s annual report. Madonna said the rebranding was based on trying to focus on appealing to a different shopper with different spending capabilities. "This comes at a perfect time when consumers are comfortable cross-shopping brands at all price points," Madonna said. As part of the rebranding and refocusing, Madonna said the company has also made a push to simultaneously upgrade fabrics without increasing prices. Value is always the focus and can be achieved through worldwide sourcing, she said, adding that in order to react to emerging trends, the company speeded up production time from 16 weeks to 10 to 12 weeks.Average prices range from $10 for a T-shirt to $24 for a blouse to $199 for a leather jacket."This is to give the customer more newness and more trends," she said. "And with the economy the way it is, I feel very strongly that we’ve done this at the right time and we can probably capture more market share because of it."
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