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Would you miss Eddie Bauer?

In January, I asked you this question: If the Gap went out of business tomorrow, would any of us care? This worthwhile question was lifted directly from the Mavericks at Work book and sparked because of Gap’s sluggish sales and the recent ouster of its CEO.

This “would you care” question is a great one to ask of any business because it tells us how well they have formed relationships with customers. If a business has formed unfailing relationships with its customers, then we would truly care if that company went out of business. On the other hand, if a business hasn’t formed a meaningful bond with customers, then we wouldn’t care if that business ceased to exist.

Throughout 2007 I am going to ask this “would you care” question of other businesses. Please offer your opinions in the comments section.


Eddie Bauer has seen better days. In recent years sales have been slow and its lost relevance. It’s CEO abruptly quit. They’ve been in a turnaround phase for years now and recently rejected two buyout offers from private equity firms.

Eddie Bauer used to be a relevant retailer. They were once a leading outdoor clothing company but in its attempt to broaden to the brand’s appeal, Bauer drifted into selling casual everyday wear and into selling linens and things for the home.

So it’s back to the drawing board for Eddie Bauer. But should Bauer even try to live for another day? Does the company still have cachet with us consumers? Do we want Eddie Bauer to live? Do we need Eddie Bauer to live? Would we care if Eddie Bauer went out of business?


  • caleb Elston says:

    I would care if I knew Eddie Bauer was the place to get the best flannel shirt which would last for years. I want the best quality woodsy clothing. If they focused on this and educated on the construction and cloths they used I would care. I don’t want Teflon in my pants and shirts from Eddie Bauer.

  • Jon Gabriel says:

    At this point, the EB brand is so scattered it’s a mush in my mind. If I had to guess, I would identify EB as a mall-bound pretend-outdoors brand containing items that look vaguely rugged, but wouldn’t last an hour in the wild.Now, if REI disappeared, I think I’d cry.

  • caleb Elston says:

    Maybe even more so than REI is Patagonia. They have seriously devoted customers.

  • Hap says:

    Originally on the recommendation of my sister who appreciated their quality, I used to get plenty of stuff at Eddie Bauer. They were also good for tall sizes. But as a card-carrying preppy, once the makeover happened I was disappointed to see the styles go down-market, i.e. bland. Now Lands End is probably more my style. But since I know EB has chamois shirts in size Large-Tall, I’d like them to stay in the mail-order business. Other than that,…

  • Matt Dickman says:

    I think Eddie Bauer was ahead of the curve in the outdoor apparel market and, through corporate decision making, decided to appeal to the masses. As they did that, similar companies with different business models moved in (Lands End and LLBean selling more cost-effectively through catalogs). The mass-focus is a slippery slope, and their quality slid and companies like Patagonia, North Face and Columbia moved in.I think Eddie Bauer has made itself a commodity brand in a commodity industry. Companies that differentiated themselves on quality and durability (once EB traits) drew people’s devotion.

  • Mark says:

    I was happy to pick up a couple of EB backpacks on the cheap when they were closing their Deptford (NJ) Mall location last month.Other than that – Eddie Who?

  • SIL says:

    They’re big into baby gear these days (Eddie Bauer Jr?) – furniture like cradles, high-chairs, car seats…walk through a Babies-r-Us and everything that’s wood (and not a Crayola box of colored metal) is EB. Some of it’s nice stuff but where the heck did this venture come from? I don’t know how well it sells and it seems like a weak brand name for licensing agreements… It would seem to me that for most new parents (and even their parents), the EB name has been out of mind for too long for it to “pull” that much. Especially up against powerhouses like Gracco, Fisher-Price and the savvy European competition. EB used to mean wool sweaters, leather boat shoes and MAYBE some shrink-wrapped Pacific smoked salmon!

  • Leigh says:

    Were you at RAC this year? Somewhat funny video on this topic of what if the brand disappeared…

  • Jamey says:

    I would miss EB if they were gone. At 6’4” they stock tall size in shirts and pants that fit off the shelf. Very few places meet that specific need for me. I also think the quality of clothing is great. Wrinkle free is brilliant.That being said, they do need to clarify and focus on what they want to be when they grow up. Are they focusing on the biz casual clothing segment, home goods or being an outfitter. I don’t consider them an outdoor outfitter even though that’s their history. You don’t see hiking boots, backpacks and tents in their stores. I’m not going to wear one of their shirts on a hike. Time to pick a segment, grab on and create the best selection and quality for that group.

  • Great stuff everyone. Thanks for sharing. Expect more of these “Would You Miss” postings on Brand Autopsy.

  • Keith says:

    Absolutely! I’d miss Eddie Bauer quite a bit. As another tall guy, I truly appreciate the fact that EB doesn’t discriminate in terms of colors and sizes available. There was even a time a few years back when EB didn’t even charge extra for talls!Even though the brand has suffered a series of ill-conceived management decisions, dilution of the expedition outfitter image, sketchy licensing deals and lost touch with many core customers, I still believe EB deserves more credit than they’ve received of late.Eddie Bauer has faithfully preserved a clean, contemporary Pacific Northwest approach to marketing, product design and advertising, which definitely works for me. I’ve tried the others (L.L. Bean, Lands’ End, etc.) but EB has consistently managed to stay modern and classic at the same time while the others are starting to appear a bit stodgey. Product design, quality and durability are all exceptional. Prices have drifted upwards too rapidly but the company seems to be holding the line on prices for now.Furthermore, I can honestly say that I’ve never had a bad customer service experience with Eddie Bauer in the 20 or more years I’ve been buying EB stuff. Return policies have been equally outstanding.I’m hopeful that the brand will be able to stay out of the hands of the private equity bandits, hire some clear-headed executives with vision and passion for what they do and finally get out of this extended funk. Eddie Bauer has enormous potential and there is absolutely no reason they can’t enjoy a bright future.

  • Gino says:

    I actually would miss them. They have tried forays into territory owned by Abercrombie and Hollister, they have tried forays into Gap, and tried to still hold onto their outdoors strength. I think they had begun to look like a good casual work/play clothing source for me, the style has remained relatively energetic, but, the outlets almost seem to outnumber the main stores themselves, so it’s almost like they’re undercutting their own brand. . .

  • Adam says:

    Most of my clothing is from Eddie Bauer or the Gap/Old Navy/Banana Republic. Currently, the Eddie Bauer style suits me better than the Gap, the Eddie Bauer quality suits me better than Old Navy (whose clothes have routinely fallen apart), and the Eddie Bauer price (most especially the outlet store prices, where most of my purchases are made) suits me far better than Banana Republic. I’d definitely miss the outlet stores- moreso than the retail stores.

  • Geri Lorenzen says:

    Oh, good Lord, of course I would HATE it. I think I, personally, keep Eddie Bauer afloat. There would be very little left for me to choose from in clothing if they went out of business. Talbot’s gets too trendy, I buy Lauren on occasion, and LL Bean frequently, but I rely on Eddie Bauer for basics. Downsize, keep the catalog business afloat, but please don’t go out of business, or I will be naked!

  • Vivian says:

    I have bought EB clothes from time to time. They do make nice down jackets, but after several dismal experiences with their store clerks, I would be so glad when EB goes out of business. The store people are so rude, I will never go in again, and refuse to buy their merchandise even if it cost a dime! I received the 3rd degree when I had to make a few returns of unworn merchandise. The store manager “Michael” in the Forest Hills NY store practically berated me in front of everyone. I was the most humiliating experience.Also, I think it’s ridiculous that they charge a $3 handling fee on top of the over priced shipping. No internet retailer does that. What a rip off. Never, ever again. I will spend my hard earn money elsewhere.

  • Vivian Viverito says:

    No I would not miss Eddie Bauer – in fact I would do a happy dance on their corporate grave! I used to buy cotton and linen Eddie Bauer dresses all the time. They were very well-made and easy care, perfect for work, but for some reason they stopped offering them 3 or 4 years ago. I got somewhat disillusioned with them once they started charging extortionate shipping fees, and the $3 handling charge is a clear rip-off, but I would grit my teeth and bear it to get at those dresses. I now think their business model must depend on them over-charging for delivery. Anyhoo, a few weeks ago I received a catalog that had a selection of the long-lost linen dresses I loved so much, so I spent about $500 on dresses and miscellaneous other items, including two T-shirts. I wore the first T-shirt once, and was horrified that the dye on the underarms bleached out after just a few hours, most likely as a reaction to my antiperspirant. I was in the middle of an important customer meeting when we called a bathroom break and I discovered that while the rest of the shirt was blue, my underarms were pink! Not that I use any kind of super-special antiperspirant, mind you, just your plain everyday Secret. Of course I reported the incident to Eddie Bauer “customer service,” who flat-out refused to refund shipping along with the merchandise price. Just because the dye ran after antiperspirant exposure on the first wearing, that was no indication of a defect in their product, said “Stephen C.,” who then proceeded to intimate that I must be some kind of thief because I no longer possessed my 3-part receipt and yet I was expecting a refund to my credit card rather than store credit. Who wants store credit when they send you junk in the first place and treat you like junk in the second place? Luckily, I have a big mouth and a lot of friends who were excited to see that Eddie was offering linen dresses again. I was to be the test guinea pig to see if the new dresses were as good as the old ones used to be. Now I intend to spread the word far and wide as I can: DON’T buy from Eddie Bauer. You can never depend on them to fix problems they’ve created. Their slide to the bottom rungs of the ladder is well-deserved. It’s ironic, if they’d just refunded the money, I’d have used my big mouth to sing their praises. They’ve grown penny-wise and pound-foolish. I guess they’ve got so much business they don’t need mine nor that of my friends.

  • Mary says:

    For most of the past decade, I’ve relied on Eddie Bauer as the source for 75% of my wardrobe, so I would be lost if they went out of business. I have minimalist tastes, and work in a casual professional office environment, so I’ve found that their brand offers some of the best quality items for my needs. I think there seems to be less variety in their styles in recent years, but I’ve otherwise remained very happy with them.

  • J says:

    I used to work as a manager at an EB location (in the past year). I really believe that they use their mall stores as a way to tease shoppers into ordering from their catalogue (which is where they make their real money). They outsource all of their catalogue jobs to Canada and purposefully (whether they say so or not), limit their in store size and style distribution so that the only way the customer can find the size or style they want is to “order it from our direct order center in the back of the store.” There were some days when I thought our only purpose was to take in store returns of catalogue items (it was not uncommon for our store to lose over 1000 dollars a day on catalogue returns).They do well for outerwear (because they actually do waterproof and use quality materials), but as far as women’s wear is concerned: The style is NOT modern or consistent with BR or GAP (except that perhaps they all offer some of the same basics, the fits and lengths are all fairly unflattering…the company as a whole just doesn’t seem to have a strong hold on any particular market. Casual wear, outdoor wear, outdoor gear, shoes, etc….a jack of all trades but master of none. It is neither a true outdoor company nor truly stylish or current women’s casualwear retailer. They do better with men (b/c the type of man that shops there likes basics and is not interested in trends), but that is not enough to support their in store buisness.Not to mention that all of the corporate unrest does have a trickle down effect in the organization. New, revamped materials and market angles were released all the time. New training manuals, New policies, New focuses…constant vacancies in district and regional management positions all effect a store’s profitability. We were always having customer service issues with their new “friends” rewards program, points getting lost, people being unable to redeem their rewards…and don’t even get me started on the complications from their old association with Spiegal!!! The company can’t even update their registers or computer screens.All of this…and I didn’t even leave on bad terms with my store!!!So in conclusion, would I miss the EB brand? no. Would the retail market? no. Would a small cult following of old school technology catalogue shoppers? maybe.So I say: cut out the stores, lower shipping costs, keep the website and focus on your market and your most profitable option: mail-order.

  • Jeff Marzano says:

    I was very disappointed when Eddie Bauer snuck in a $ 3.00 handling charge AFTER I placed the order.If I would have known that I wouldn’t have purchases the shirt.They’re ok but they’re not up there with LL Bean and Lands’ End as far as quality goes.Also when they say they’re having a ‘sale’ they really mean they’re just reducing prices that were artificially high anyway I think.I had a wool sweater from Eddie Bauer that started pilling also even though I dry cleaned it. Another sign of bad quality.Why is everyone always trying to grab whatever they can get in this God forsaken world ?Jeff Marzano

  • BB55 says:

    I am also 6’4″ and would be very upset if EB went out of business. However on the last few shopping trips their large tall were too big in one type of sweater and the large fit fine, and vice versa with another lighter sweater. This points to lack of quality control. So now I have to go to the store and try everything on. If you have an outlet store close to you and the stuff goes on sale you can buy most stuff at 75% off. I like the simple style and the clothes hold up well. I dont wear any other brand tshirts other than EB. For more up to date “go out” clothes I buy from BR and if I really want to drop coin – Hugo Boss. But overall I would be very unhappy if they went out of business since 50% of my wardrobe is EB..

  • I agree with the information and opinions about the women’s outdoor apparel posted here! This is serious subject i am glad that i have found your site!

  • Molly says:

    I would miss Eddie Bauer terribly. I love their clothes because they are basic, attractive and of good quality. The Gap is too trendy and like Old Navy their clothes tend to fall apart after a few times in the washing machine. My husband is 6’3″ – so I love the fact they carry Tall sizes. So I beg on bended knee that someone anyone rescue Eddie Bauer and put them back on the map (and reopen your Willow Grove, PA mall store too!!)

  • Billy Bart says:

    I’ve recently heard something about the retail stores that has upset me greatly. I cannot find a proper place to write this, so please forgive me if it disturbs anyone here.I have heard that E.B. has a Loyalty Program and an in-house Eddie Bauer Credit Card Program who’s sign-up percentages can get a manager fired.For instance; every customer who walks through the door is ‘counted’ electronically. A group of 8 people walk in, eight are counted…even if only 1 intends to buy.A percentage of all people who walk through the door is then derived from the total. In some cases it’s 20% in others it’s as high as 45%.Now if, at the end of the month, Loyalty Program membership, or credit card does NOT match the percentage of people expected by E.B. – the manager can get ‘written up’. A second offense results in the manager getting fired.I have heard that a manager about 90 miles from Los Angeles was fired because he/she was caught filling out 400 fake Loyalty membership forms for one month – in order to save his/her job.Why? Was it because the store was dirty? Employees stealing? The Manager mismanaged the payroll? Was nasty to customers?No.He/She was fired because they couldn’t get enough people to sign up Loyalty forms and Credit Cards to match the demanded percentage – even though the store is the single largest performer in the whole southern part of the state.Does this sound fair to anyone? Does it make you want to buy at Eddie Bauer anymore? Knowing that they would treat their managers so poorly personally makes me sick!We should be boycotting this practice. The ramifications are terrible.Anyone else heard of this?

  • DBM says:

    I wanted to comment on what a few people have said.The lady who said that she bought a blue shirt and wanted to return it b/c she perspired and it damaged the shirt. It sounds like your shirt was pigment dyed. If that’s the case, it would say that on the tag and it would’ve also given you special instructions on how to wash it. Always wash before you wear. I will say that the sales associate was wrong for not accepting your return. But if you don’t have your receipt then we don’t know how you paid for it so therefore we are not allowed to give you anything other than a merchandise credit. We’ve had several people try to cheat the system, so we have to set limitations and as managers/associates we have to follow those rules if we want to keep our jobs. But, the associate could’ve made your experience more pleasurable.Eddie Bauer has one of the most liberal guarantee’s I have ever witnessed. I have been working for Eddie Bauer for several years now. People return stuff that looks like it has been beat on rocks. People really do abuse the lifetime guarantee.Also, E.B. has gone through a lot over the years. New people coming in and out trying to revamp the line. Now, with Fiske we are trying to get back to our roots…the very things that made E.B what it was. The clothing now features more for the outdoor-type. The quality of the clothing is still the same as it has been. E.B’s clothes are made to last for years and years and I can testify to that. If the clothing wasn’t living up to what we say it is, then we wouldn’t have such a deep customer base.Now, on to the loyalty and credit card programs.The loyalty program is really for the customers. If you are an avid shopper of E.B. then you should sign up. It really is a great program, and since it has came into existence we haven’t been pushing credit. Now as for the guy filling out 400 loyalty apps to keep his job, that’s bs. I have never heard of such a thing. We don’t get fired for that. If that was the case, then some of us would’ve been long gone. I believe it’s the fact that he tried to cheat the system that got him fired. That greatly reflects his integrity.People can’t just go on hearsay…they need to know the facts firsthand.With all that said, Eddie Bauer is Eddie Bauer. It’s not Gap or Banana Republic. That’s not the type of company that we are and our clothes are not like those of Gap or BR.Oh, and you would be surprised by how many people walk in our store asking for children’s clothing or “baby accessories”. They are made of great quality, just like the clothing. It’s funny how people are so quick to judge something just because they aren’t familiar with the brand and the history.

  • EVW says:

    I am so glad to see what DBM wrote! As an employee of Eddie Bauer it makes me sad at some of the things people of written. I have only been with EB for about a year now and everything has held up just fine so far. No more ripped out jeans. I really love what Mr. Fiske is doing for our company. Being an outdoors person I am glad we are starting to become more rugged. As far as the return policy, I feel it is one of the best there is…I have had customers return clothes from well over a year ago that have faded because of washing and they have recieved a full refund! I don’t believe they should have, because if you were something everyday it will eventually fade…..I’ve had another woman who spilled bleach on two of her sweatshirts and she still recieved a full refund as well….Thats who Eddie Bauer was, a man who believed customers come first and would have done anything to make sure they were completely satisfied! As far as that guy in California being fired for filling out fake friends, he should have been! It doesn’t matter where you work or what you do, but if you try to cheat the system to make yourself look better than you do not belong there! I am very happy to work for a company whose ideals are truely that of a Lengend!

  • EVW says:

    Haha, I mean wear not were gosh it has been a long day!

  • jkc says:

    i have worked for eddie bauer for just about a year now, and i am also very happy to see dbm write in. the quality is good, usually. the service is good, usually. if you have a problem like the lady with the dye bleeding, find someone in a store to complain to or call the 1-800 for whatever happened in california, even if i didn’t work for this company, i would need a little more reliable information than someone writing on a chat board, alternately asking people if they have heard of this and musing about boycotting and terrible ramifications. this is how those perpetual internet forwards get going — you know the ones, about the lady calling the secret number for the police when a car was following her and saving her life, et cetera… no, thank you.

  • J. Hilton says:

    I’m also so glad to see other employees posting on here. It’s kind of interesting to see the comments from February 2007 til now and see a little bit of the EB brand journey as well. I actually work at the EB store which is right across from the Corporate offices for the entire Eddie Bauer chain, so I hear a lot about what’s going on straight from the top. (I’m not kidding- Neil Fiske shops at our store several times a month.) We have actually chosen a brand niche now- Eddie Bauer is headed back to the ‘rugged, outdoor brand’ heritage. Probably not to the point that Eddie Bauer himself began the brand at (tennis rackets, fishing gear, hunting rifles), but actually back to clothes that you WOULD wear hiking. I’m also glad to let you know that Corporate stopped making the stores push the EB credit card about 6 months ago. The Loyalty program is nothing that could get a manager fired, and hasn’t been in the year plus that I’ve worked for EB.If you’re forced to order from the catalog- and I sympathize with you, tall women and petites- at least there is an option to order from in the store and not pay the (ridiculous, I know!) shipping charge. I’m actually proud to work for Eddie Bauer- I like where the brand is heading.I would also like to apologize to the people who got horrible customer service. Please, please don’t judge us all by a few jerks!

  • Marie says:

    I would definitely miss them! I am missing women’s cords in blue, stretch cords! I have been an EB fan for many years but live in South Fl, where the store closed – now whenever I head out of FL I hit the outlet in St. Augustine, I do not like ordering from the catalog-never knowing if the item will fit properly. I like the idea that they are going back to the rugged clothes, more my style. Just to let you know, I have received an email stating DO NOT BUY EB Gift Cards as the stores may be closing, glad to hear it is not true!

  • sue henchey says:

    i have worked in management for eb the past 5 months i have never worked for a company that stands by its product the way eb does i have seen people walk in with a 5 year old coat and the zipper broke and we have accomodated that customer with money towards A New coat where on else can u go and recieve that kind of customer service,, if i get 5 years out of any product im happy… also eb rewards u for shopping with them i redeem rewards certificates anywhere from 10 to 80 dollars 4 times a year,,, what other store does that on a quarterly basis.. i am proud to represent such a high quality product that prides itself on service and satisfaction.. i hope everyone can make the trip to eb and see what they have been missing or what our LOYAL customers have been enjoying.. oh and by the way we are not closing we have been in business since 1920,,,,,

  • Laura says:

    I know nothing about Eddie Bauer’s history, and before taking a closer look at their website I did think it was some rugged manly brand that had nothing to do with me. But for some reason that I don’t remember, I took a peek at their women’s clothing line. You should have seen how giddy I got! I love fashion in a way that is wierd for someone whose favorite clothes are casual and comfortable. But their apparel has totally nailed my clothing tastes! The other day when my husband came home I told him I was in love with Eddie Bauer I was so excited!! If I have anything to do with it, they’ll be in business for a good long while.