After 72 years of female dominance, Littlewoods puts a man on its cover

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The Independent Online

The covers of catalogues have typically been the preserve of pretty women wearing swirling dresses, but Littlewoods has broken with 72 years of tradition by featuring a man as the principal image.

The covers of catalogues have typically been the preserve of pretty women wearing swirling dresses, but Littlewoods has broken with 72 years of tradition by featuring a man as the principal image.

The male model who can lay claim to this small part of publishing history is the German Norbert Michalke, 33, the former face of Calvin Klein's campaign for the fragrance Eternity for Men, who is famed for his rugged good looks and lantern jaw.

Littlewoods hopes that the image on its new Even More clothes and furnishings catalogue will appeal to a new target audience, men reluctant to go shopping on the high street. Failing that, the new campaign might be a hit with women who found Michalke irresistible, the company said.

Research for the firm found 47 per cent of men refuse to shop on the high street, while 29 per cent said girlfriends or mothers bought their clothes for them. Michalke has been chosen as the company's new "face" as it is rebranded as a catalogue that can also be accessed online. Sarah Cheetham, brand director of Littlewoods Even More, said: "Having a man on the front cover of a catalogue has never before been considered. However, following extensive research, we decided that now was the time to do it."

Cat Trathen, head of the men's division of the Storm modelling agency, which represents Michalke, said the 6ft 1in model had appeared in many high-profile campaigns and designer catwalk shows. "Norbert is a well-established, prestigious model within the industry and he is absolutely gorgeous," she said. "He has been a regular model for Littlewoods for a while but he was very pleased that they were going to use him for the cover."

The catalogue retail sector has been forced to alter its image to survive the challenge from online shopping. Market research published last month found that sales from catalogues were outstripped by internet purchases for the first time last year.

The market analysts Mintel said that 32 per cent of shoppers had made an online purchase, while the number of people buying from a mail order catalogue fell from 53 per cent to just 25 per cent.

Low prices, instant availability and the chance to shop on the internet during office hours had added to the lure of online buying, while 1,000-page catalogues offering weekly repayments were now seen as "old-fashioned and downmarket", the research concluded.

At the same time, the slump in catalogue shopping was highlighted when Littlewoods said it was shutting 126 Index stores and selling the remaining 33 to the American retail giant GUS.

It's in the post

* The first firms to use catalogues were printers, with 15th-century Venetians among the earliest.

* Mail order became possible on a wider scale with 19th-century advances in postal services and the emergence of mass- produced goods.

* In 1845 Tiffany & Company of New York, published "Useful and Fancy Articles", offering goods from Europe and China.

* In 1872 AM Ward started sending watches to customers in the American West. By the late 19th century, the Ward catalogue had 244 pages.

* Littlewoods Pools was founded by the late Sir John Moores in 1923; its home shopping service began nine years later.

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