Montgomery Ward Reaffirms Decision to Discontinue Catalog
CHICAGO (AP) _ Officials of Montgomery Ward & Co. reaffirmed Thursday the company’s decision to phase out its catalog sales operations by the end of 1986, despite rumors of a possible change in plans.
″We have no plans to absorb any part of these operations into our Signature Group despite recent speculation to the contrary,″ said Richard Bergel, senior vice president for catalog, distribution and direct marketing.
Bergel said Montgomery Ward would publish its full complement of 1985 catalogs, including the traditional Christmas edition, but then begin phasing out the operation.
″The company will wind down its catalog business over the next eight to 14 months as previously announced,″ he said. ″There will be no catalogs published after that time.″
Company officials had no comment on a Texas lawsuit alleging that operators of several of Ward’s catalog sales outlets had been misled about the impact of the phase-out plan.
The operators’ small-town stores have been ″a mainstay of the rural American way of life for 113 years″ but now appear doomed, the $8.5 million lawsuit says.
The plaintiffs allege that Montgomery Ward officials - through statements, sales meetings and other actions - led catalog agents to believe their independent stores would stay open even though company-owned catalog stores were being closed.
″All of these actions were intended by Wards to and did lull the agents and rural America into a false sense of security″ that the company was ″dedicated to the future of the catalog sales agencies,″ the lawsuit says.
However, the suit charges, Montgomery Ward ″effectively closed the agencies and ended its relationship with rural America by its announcement on Aug. 1, 1985, that it would close the catalog stores forever.″
Spokesman Chuck Holland at Montgomery Ward’s Chicago headquarters declined comment on the lawsuit Wednesday.
″I really have not seen the contents of the lawsuit. At this point, we have no comment,″ Holland said.
He said Montgomery Ward plans to close some 200 company-owned stores and some 1,300 independently owned catalog agencies within the next 14 months.