Thursday, May 16, 2002

Fingerhut stops orders, prepares to close its distribution center

By Sue Halena
St. Cloud Times

        ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Fingerhut Cos. Inc. will stop taking orders today and will close its St. Cloud distribution center in late summer, a spokesman said.

        An unspecified number of workers soon will receive layoff notices guaranteeing at least 60 days of pay, and others who already have been warned of layoffs will get either termination notices or extensions.

        The decision to end orders and stop shipments the next week dims hopes of keeping the 54-year-old catalog business alive, former employee Bev Lieser said.

        “Nothing will be left if they don't accept any more orders,” said Ms. Lieser, who entered mail-order information into Fingerhut computers for 17 years before her April termination.

        Spokesman Ben Saukko said Tuesday that Fingerhut and its parent company, Cincinnati-based Federated Department Stores Inc., are keeping options open.

        “Federated is exploring the sale of assets and working with potential buyers to determine their interest,” he said. “That includes parties who seek individual assets or functional areas of the business, such as a call center.”

        Union leader Jane Palmbach said Federated should be focusing on talks with former Fingerhut CEO Ted Deikel, who has shown interest in the company.

        “It seems premature to me that Federated could say they're bargaining in good faith and make an announcement like that,” Ms. Palmbach said.

        Merchandise liquidation will begin this month, Mr. Saukko said. Fingerhut's Tennessee distribution center will close in middle to late summer, and the St. Cloud closure will follow.

        Tentative plans call for about 850 employees companywide through September, with the majority likely to be in St. Cloud. The company plans to have 350 employees through the end of January 2003.

        Company-sponsored career centers in St. Cloud, Minnetonka and Brooklyn Center will offer job fairs this month.


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