In the early years, Lands’ End catalogs were about 32 pages long and came out four times a year. In 1975, our first full-color catalog was published, and in 1977, the focus moved toward clothing‚ gaining placement on 13 of the catalog’s 40 pages.
But the size of our catalogs and the frequency with which they were mailed weren’t the only things to experience growth during that time. Up until 1978, the entire company – management, our retail outlet, customer service, returns, creative, marketing – was in residence at 2317 Elston Avenue in Chicago. A dozen or so employees were housed in that two-story building; the basement held our stock. That’s when the warehouse and phone operations moved to the little town of Dodgeville in rural Wisconsin.
Lands’ End founder Gary Comer had fallen in love with the gently rolling hills and woods and cornfields of Southwestern Wisconsin. And then he found, along with all that nature had to offer, a remarkable group of people in the surrounding community. People who take pride and honest joy in what they do, whether it’s carefully placing your order, or hemming trousers to your specifications, or making sure merchandise measures up in quality.
When we first came to Dodgeville, we started small. But the business and the community were good to us. And today our company headquarters has grown to employ thousands, drawing its workforce from throughout Iowa County and the nearby Madison area.
After entering the computer age in 1970 (with both inventory and sales operations), Lands’ End tries its hand at creating something other than sailing equipment: they begin in-house manufacturing of duffel bags.
Lands’ End develops and markets its own brand of rain suit, a two-piece outfit worn by sailors in foul weather.
Lands’ End produces its first all-color catalog, featuring 30 pages of sailing equipment and two full pages of clothing.
A shift in focus takes place from sailing equipment, to clothing and canvas luggage. Non-nautical products now took up eight pages, including products such as a men’s chamois-cloth shirt.
In the spring, Lands’ End issues its first real clothing catalog, with 13 of 40 pages dedicated to non-nautical goods – including soft luggage, called Square Rigger.
Lands’ End began to phase out the sailing equipment aspect of its operations, but retained the rugged, reliable, and traditional nature of the business. Lands’ End operations moves from its Chicago base to Dodgeville, a small rural town in Southwestern Wisconsin. Comer chose this location because he had some land in the area and spent quite a bit of time here. Based on his love of the land and the people, he decided to move his business to Dodgeville. By mid 1978 Lands’ End introduced one of the first toll-free 800-numbers.
Lands’ End continued to transfer operations to Wisconsin by opening an office in a pre-existing strip mall in Dodgeville. Next, ground was broken for a 33,000-square-foot warehouse and an 8,400-square-foot office building in the local industrial park.