updated 10/10/2007 5:03:39 PM ET 2007-10-10T21:03:39

For decades, the Sears Wish Book was holiday treat, scrupulously studied, dog-eared and circled by generations of children hoping for the best on Christmas morning.

Now, 14 years after Sears shelved the catalog, the retailer is reviving the holiday tradition as it struggles to attract new shoppers and revive business.

"We all get lots of gifts, but wishes are a special thing," said Chief Marketing Officer Richard Gerstein. "And I think that's what this book used to embody and that's why we're bringing it back."

Unlike its monstrous, 832-page predecessor, the updated Wish Book being mailed to shoppers this week is a trim-by-comparison 188 pages.

Over the years, Sears has created smaller toy-only Wish Books through a partnership with EToys.com and publishes periodic topic-specific mailers that focus on items such as tools or furniture. But this year's Wish Book marks the first full-fledged catalog by the retailer since 1993.

Half the catalog will be devoted to toys, while the remainder will focus on other store items including appliances, tools, clothes and jewelry.

The company won't say how many copies of the Wish Book it's printing, only that it's far fewer than the massive distribution of the past. Meanwhile, an online version of the Wish Book will be available on Sears' Web site.

Executives declined to say how much the Wish Book initiative will cost.

It's anyone's guess whether the catalog will help Sears and its parent company, ailing Hoffman Estates-based Sears Holdings Corp., during the all-important holiday shopping season.

Morningstar analyst Kim Picciola said she thinks the Wish Book will be favored by older shoppers, especially as younger consumers eschew catalogs.

"It's really more of a marketing tool," she said. "It's generating interest in the products, generating interest in possibly coming into the store."

George Hague, a senior marketing strategist with catalog consultant J. Schmid & Associates Inc., said traditional mall-type retailers still can have success with catalogs, which often drive shoppers into stores or onto Web sites.

The trick is knowing the target audience.

"It certainly doesn't hurt them that they have the nostalgic connection to their catalog," he said. "(But) it's not a build it and they will shop from you thing."

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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