Eddie Bauer: Lost touch with its brand, probably headed for bankruptcy

According to some reports, outdoor outfitter Eddie Bauer may seek bankruptcy protection as early as this week. On the bright side, however, three companies -- Hilco Consumer Capital, CCMP Capital Advisors, and a private-equity firm based in New York -- have expressed interest in buying Bauer's assets.

Admittedly, it's been a tough year for outdoor goods retailers. In 2008, LL Bean, perhaps America's best-known outfitter, had a 7.8 percent drop in sales. While this seems minor in comparison to the miseries suffered by many other American businesses (including Bauer), it's worth noting that Bean's annual revenue has only fallen three times since 1960.

On one level, this trend is odd: Between 2007 and 2008, camping vacations went up by 7.4 percent, driven by consumers who were looking for cheap, fun escapes. Unfortunately, however, many outdoorsmen are apparently buying their supplies from cheaper vendors.