mail order catalogs


Gordon Van Tine - 707 by L > R

Jill Goodacre reading for Victoria’s Secret, early 1990s.

Goodacre was a primary lingerie and hosiery model for the relatively new Victoria’s Secret company in its mail-order catalogs and retail stores in the 1980s, and she appeared extensively in the catalogs. She, Stephanie Seymour, and Dutch model Frederique helped Victoria’s Secret grow from a new company to one of the world’s giants in women’s lingerie, hosiery, swimwear, and clothing.

Hard times for Sears as retailer notes doubt about future

NEW YORK (AP) – Sears, a back-to-school shopping destination for generations of kids, has said that after years of losing money that there is “substantial doubt” it will be able to keep its doors open. But it also insisted that its actions to turn around its business should help reduce that risk.

It was still a dramatic acknowledgment from the chain that owns Sears and Kmart stores, which has long held fast to its stance that a turnaround is possible, even as many of its shoppers have moved on to Wal-Mart, Target or Amazon.

Sears has survived of late mainly with millions in loans funneled through the hedge fund of Chairman and CEO Edward Lampert, but with sales fading it is burning through cash. Sears Holdings Corp. said late Tuesday it lost more than $2 billion last year, and its historical operating results indicated doubt about the future of the company that started in the 1880s as a mail-order catalog business.

At a largely empty Sears store in St. Paul, Minnesota, where the available parking far outstripped the number of cars in the lot, 85-year-old Jack Walsh and his 82-year-old wife, Mary Ann, said they have shopped at Sears their entire lives, buying items from curtains and window treatments to tires and tools.

“I bought my tools from Sears and I’ve still got them,” Jack Walsh said.

The company known for DieHard batteries and Kenmore appliances has been selling assets, most recently its Craftsman tool brand. But it says pension agreements may prevent the sale of more businesses, potentially leading to a shortfall in funding.

“It’s a sad story. This is the place that created the first direct to consumer retail, the first modern department store. It stood like the Colossus over the American retail landscape,” said Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners, a retail consulting firm. “But it’s been underinvested and bled dry.”

Company shares, which hit an all-time low last month, tumbled more than 13 percent Wednesday. Sears tried to soothe investors’ fears, saying in a post on its site that it remains focused on “executing our transformation plan” and that news reports miss the full disclosure that it’s highlighting actions to reduce risks. It also said that the comments made in the filing were in line with “regulatory standards.”

Lampert combined Sears and Kmart in 2005, about two years after he helped bring Kmart out of bankruptcy. He pledged to return Sears to greatness, leveraging its best-known brands and its vast holdings of land, and more recently planned to entice customers with its loyalty program. The company, which employs 140,000 people, announced in January said it would close 108 additional Kmart and 42 more Sears locations, and unveiled yet another restructuring plan in February aimed at cutting costs and reconfiguring debts to give itself more breathing room.

But it has to get more people through the doors or shopping online for what it’s selling. Sears, like many department stores, has been thwarted by a new consumer that has ripped up the decades-old playbook that the industry has relied upon. A plethora of new online players have also revolutionized the market.

Sears has upped its presence online, but is having a hard time disguising its age. Its stores are in need of a major refresh as rivals like Wal-Mart and Target invest heavily to revitalize stores. Sales at established Sears and Kmart locations dropped 10.3 percent in the final quarter of 2016.

Industry analysts have placed the staggering sums of money that Sears is losing beside the limited number of assets it has left to sell, and believe the storied retailer may have reached the point of no return.

The company has lost $10.4 billion since 2011, the last year that it made a profit. Excluding charges that can be listed as one-time events, the loss is $4.57 billion, says Ken Perkins, who heads the research firm Retail Metrics LLC, but how the losses are stacked no longer seem to matter.

“They’re past the tipping point,” Perkins said. “This is a symbolic acknowledgement of the end of Sears of what we know it to be.”

For Sears to survive, Perkins believes it would need to do so as a company running maybe 200 stores. It now operates 1,430, a figure that has been vastly reduced in recent years. As for Kmart, Perkins does not see much of a future.

For decades, Sears was king of the American shopping landscape. Sears, Roebuck and Co.’s storied catalog featured items from bicycles to sewing machines to houses, and could generate excitement throughout a household when it arrived. The company began opening retail locations in 1925 and expanded swiftly in suburban malls from the 1950s to 1970s.

“When I first got married at 19 or 20, we bought our first set of kettles from Sears,” said Darla Klemmensen, who was shopping at the St. Paul store on Wednesday. “We still have some of those.”

Klemmensen says Sears has been part of her life since she was a child watching her grandmother order stockings and garters, and she remembers flipping through Sears catalogs as thick as her forearm, full of appliances, clothing and kitchen wares.

But the onset of discounters like Wal-Mart created challenges for Sears that have only grown. Sears faced even more competition from online sellers and appliance retailers like Lowe’s and Home Depot. Its stores became its albatross, many of them looking shabby and outdated. The company, based northwest of Chicago in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, lost $607 million in the most recent quarter and revenue fell.

“They’ve been delusional about their ability to turn around the business,” said Perkins.

Johnson, though, believes one avenue for Sears could be returning to its roots as a direct-to-consumer company, only using the internet versus the old catalog. He believes the Sears name still stands for something for the 40-plus customer.

“It has a lot of good memories,” he said. “It stands for being dependable and reliable.”


Weikel reported from St. Paul, Minnesota. AP Business Writer Michelle Chapman contributed to this report from Newark, New Jersey.

Most people, gardeners or not, know there is a big difference in taste between a supermarket tomato and one grown in a home garden. What many people do not know is that there is a similar difference between garden-grown potatoes and those bought in a store. Home-grown potatoes, no matter how they are cooked have a silky smooth texture and a mild but delicious flavor-qualities rarely found in store-bought potatoes. And they are relatively easy to grow. 

How to Plant - Potatoes require between 90 and 120 frost -free days to mature. UNlike most other cool season vegetables, their foliage is sensitive to frost. Start with certified, disease-free seed potatoes. These are small potatoes or sections of potatoes that are usually slightly shriveled and coated with fungicide to help prevent deterioration. They are available at most nurseries, seed stores and mail-order catalogs. The variety ‘Liberty’ can be grown from seeds but it’s much easier to start from seed potatoes. Don’t plant potatoes purchased in the produce section of a supermarket. They are often sprayed with chemicals to prevent sprouting. 

Cut the seed potatoes into chunks about 1-1½ inches in diameter. Each chunk should have at least two eyes (small buds). Plant in soil that is loose and rich in organic matter. Work in a general-purpose fertilizer at a rate of about a ½ pound of actual nitrogen per 100 feet of row. Set the chunks, cut side down, 4 inches deep and 12 inches apart, in rows spaced 24 to 36 inches. Do this a week or two before the last frost date. 

The potatoes will sprout in about 2 to 3 weeks. When the sprouts reach 4 to 5 inches high, mound soil up against the stems, Continue to mound soil against the growing stems. Continue to mound soil against the growing stems as long as possible. The tubers will form along the stems in the mounded soil. 

How to grow - It is important to keep the developing potatoes covered because they will turn green if exposed to sunlight. The best way to do this is to apply at least a 6-inch layer of organic mulch such as straw. This will also help keep the soil cool and make harvesting easier because tubers will form closer to soil level and sometimes in the  mulch itself.  Potatoes must also be kept constantly moist. 

Varieties - Varieties are divided into early, midseason and late, and also differ by storage capabilities and by skin color - red, white and brown (russeted). There is even a blue variety that is available in some areas. Most nurseries will carry several locally adapted varieties. They may or may not be labeled. Mail-order catalogs have a larger selection. 

Harvesting - You can begin harvesting new potatoes - small immature tubers - when plants begin to flower. Gently feel around in the upper soil or mulch to find them. If you plan to store your potatoes over winter, they should be allowed to mature fully in the soil. Once the tops die down completely, gently dig up the tubers with a pitchfork or with your hands. Place them in a dark place at about 70F (21C) for about a week to heal any bruised. Then store those that are haled or bruise-free in a humid place at a temperature between 35F to 40F (2C to 4C).


Officially Cheating with the Game Genie,

Perhaps one of the most important accessories to have with the Nintendo Entertainment System, the Game Genie was a device allowing the user to modify the game in order to get certain cheats such as invincibility, unlimited lives, unlimited ammo, and other features.  Peashooter knows the Game Genie well, as he would have never beaten Super Mario Bros 3 without the magic of the of the cheat device.

Use of the Game Genie was simple; the user simply placed the device on the end of the NES cartridge, then inserted the cartridge into the console.  The Game Genie would temporarily negate the code of the game, replacing it with a new code that modified the game. A booklet of cheat codes relevant for each game came with the device.  Before the game started a special screen appeared where the player typed in the desired codes.  The game would then start with the cheats having taken effect.  When new games were manufactured a new booklet of cheat codes were published, for sale by mail order catalog.

Originally the Game Genie was introduced in 1990, produced and sold by a UK/Canadian company called Camerica.  Later they were produced by Lewis Galoob Toys, Inc, then one of the largest toy companies in the United States.  Every Nintendo kid loved the new Game Genie, of course who doesn’t love to cheat? Unfortunately there was one group of people who didn’t like the Game Genie, the employees and managers of Nintendo.  Nintendo claimed that the Game Genie created derivative works that violated its copyrights.  In July of 1990 a court granted Nintendo an injunction against Galoob, preventing the company from selling any more Game Genies.  Galoob then filed a complaint against Nintendo, claiming that he injunction violated its Constitutional rights.  The legal battle went all the way to Federal Court in 1991 with the case Galoob vs. Nintendo.  Judge Fern M. Smith ruled that Galoob did not infringe upon Nintendo’s copyrights, citing that the Game Genie’s modifications were protected under the fair use doctrine.

Five million Game Genie devices were for the NES were sold world wide.  Game Genies were also produced for the Super Nintendo, Nintendo Gameboy, Sega Genesis, and Sega Game Gear.  A new and improved model was planned for 1993, called the Game Genie 2, but development never proceeded past the design stages.

Where did Secret of the Seventh Labyrinth go?

In 1993, MicroProse’s MPS Labs released almost released Secret of the Seventh Labyrinth, a first-person role-playing game.

23 years on, there is almost no information about this game or evidence that it ever existed. The closest I can find is a French abandonware site that, in lieu of a copy of the game, includes screenshots that appear to be scanned from a magazine. It looks like it had a vaguely Egyptian theme…

Almost no other information about the game is readily available. If it wasn’t released, it came very close to reaching store shelves: a few mail-order catalogs list the game, and it had at least one brief review in volume 10, issue 7 of QuestBusters (scan courtesy of The Museum of Computer Adventure Game History):

It’s possible that Secret of the Seventh Labyrinth was canceled at the last minute. If it was released, that’s even more troubling: a game by a major developer would have completely vanished over the course of twenty years.

(Please get in touch if you know anything about this game!)

UPDATE: As @eliott-rust points out, it was canceled, but possibly late into production. See reblogs for more.