When Lands’ End founder Gary Comer wanted to move his business from sailing gear to clothing, Bernie Roer helped create the clothing catalog that made the company so successful.
He helped select his outerwear, designed the pages, did photo ops, and even recruited his children or the people he met to be models for the catalog.
Its clothing rollout in 1977 was a direct marketing triumph, Mr. Roer recalled in a 2013 interview with Women’s Wear Daily.
“It was like riding a racehorse,” he said. “We were doubling our sales every year.
Former Creative Director of Lands’ End, Mr. Roer died July 26 of heart failure at his home in Naples, Florida, according to his daughter. He was 96 years old.
“Bernie Roer had a huge impact on the initial success of Lands ‘End as a business and on the creation of the Lands’ End brand,” said Jerome Griffith, President and CEO of the company.
“He was able to take the merchandising and branding strategy and images that Gary Comer wanted and translate them into the look of the catalog,” said David Zentmyer, former senior vice president of Lands’ End.
Comer – a philanthropist who went on to fund Comer Children’s Hospital – was “the one who imagined it,” Zentmyer said, “but Bernie was right by his side.”
“They created a business of a few billion dollars, but, more importantly, they created a business that people loved to work for and that people loved to shop for,” said John Maher, another former vice-president. senior chairman.
Together, they rode a wave fueled by the preppy look and the increased use of credit cards. Comer and Mr. Roer also helped introduce the free 1-800 customer service number and an innovative no-questions-asked return policy, Zentmyer said.
Mr. Roer’s preppy, sporty sense of style mirrored that of Lands’ End customers.
“My dad always looked like he was stepping off the golf course or on a sailboat or going to dinner at the country club,” daughter Meghan Barber said. “Navy blue jacket, pastel button-down shirt, white dollars.”
Mr. Roer grew up as one of three brothers in Jefferson Park during the Great Depression. Her mother Emelia used a wheelchair because of the effects of polio. His father Oscar was a tie cutter.
Young Bernie caddied at a place he would later join for 40 years: the Park Ridge Country Club. He also placed pins in a bowling alley and worked as a jerk soda at the old Musket & Henriksen drugstore in Lawrence and Elston.
He attended Lane Technical High School, where “he did the illustrations for his yearbook,” his daughter said.
After graduating in 1943, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps and served in the South Pacific as a navigator on a bomber.
After the war, he studied art on the GI Bill at the Ray-Vogue School on Michigan Avenue.
He met Joan McHugh, who would become his wife for 72 years, at a “Catholic Sunday night dance,” their daughter said. They married in 1949 at St. Ferdinand Church and raised their family in Park Ridge.
He landed his first advertising job at Young & Rubicam in the 1950s. Over the next decade he worked for Campbell-Mithun on accounts such as Hamm’s Beer, then moved to NW Ayer.
Comer’s first catalog – the peddling of sailing gear – misplaced the apostrophe in “Land’s End”, and he decided to keep it that way. In the mid-1970s, he recruited Mr. Roer to expand the clothing catalog. The company, now based in Dodgeville, Wisconsin, was then headquartered at 2317 N. Elston Ave.
Photoshoots for summer clothing were held in places like Naples, Florida. Winter shoots can be done in Jackson, Wyoming, or Taos, New Mexico. To find models, “Lands’ End just put an ad in the Taos newspaper. These types of male and female skiers have appeared, ”said former creative director Al Shackelford. “They have real, very cool people.”
While Mr Roer and his photographer were having dinner, they sometimes invited the men and women who took their orders to be models, his daughter said, although at times he thought, “They looked better there. night over a drink until the next morning. . “
He loved to play golf. He also liked sports cars. At different times he drove a small red MG, a Firebird and a few Saab convertibles.
The family home was filled with watercolors, oils and pastels that Mr. Roer painted.
In addition to his wife and daughter, survivors include daughters Kathy Roer and Kris Rollwagen, sons Mark and Charlie, 13 grandchildren, 11 great grandchildren and brother Don.
A funeral mass is scheduled for September 4 at 10 a.m. at St. Paul of the Cross Church in Park Ridge.