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What’s In Your Catalog’s Future?
December 1, 2000

For the past two decades, I have written and spoken worldwide on the future of the catalog industry. My position has always been to challenge conventional thinking, and I have been right on some things and wrong on others, but hopefully always provocative. My early thoughts on the future of the Internet (1994) and its influence on catalog and direct marketing have been, for the most part, accurate. I predicted the growing importance of e-mail marketing, permission-based databases, proprietary databases and the surety of dynamic pricing as an outgrowth of self-directed, online commerce. In 1997, I was correct in my assessment of

Case Study: Multiple Zones International
October 1, 2000

There’s nothing like having a billionaire for a neighbor. Especially one that throws a little business your way, like Microsoft did when it named Multiple Zones International (MZI) its chief supplier of computer hardware, software and services. The contract is one of many changes taking place at MZI. Since moving online in 1995, MZI has seen fast growth in revenue and transactions, creating a $115-million company. What began in 1989 as a three-title catalog company with PC Zone, Mac Zone and The Learning Zone, has grown into a multi-channel retail operation that includes a new business-to-business division. The new Zones Business Solutions division is

Three Years and $3 Million to Break Even
October 1, 2000

The longer you’ve been in cataloging, the more variations you will have heard for this month’s rule of thumb. Over the years I’ve heard two years and $2 million, four years and $4 million, even five years and $5 million—but all variations seem to agree that it takes several years and about the same number of millions of dollars for a new catalog to reach breakeven. How reliable is this rule? Are there exceptions? Or has launching a successful catalog truly become a millionaire’s game these days? We’ll find some answers in this column, beginning with a precise definition of our rule: The

Day with a Pro: Michelle Farabaugh, VP of marketing, West Marine
September 1, 2000

As senior vice president of marketing and strategic planning for West Marine, Michelle Farabaugh is one fast moving target. Her day begins with a 40-minute a.m. commute, during which she returns a entire voice mailbox of calls. In charge of creating and executing sales and marketing strategies for the Watson, CA-based company’s online, catalog, retail and wholesale sales channels, she typically works a 12-hour day, not including her morning drive. Farabaugh’s mission is to create new programs that drive profits and increase customer loyalty. As a young senior vice president, she subscribes to the motto that to succeed, you need “wrinkles or results.” Having

A Look at a Few Major Catalog Markets
May 1, 2000

The fall of trade barriers, a maturing domestic market and the explosion of the World Wide Web have combined to make entry into the global marketplace attractive for U.S. catalogers. Going global is a two-part equation. The first part is the decision to market internationally. The second part of the equation is where to market. First and foremost, you must get an idea of the scale of the market, including its size and potential as well as the maturity of the channel of distribution. After narrowing it down to a few potential markets, you need to do some in-country research. You need to consider,

Continuity Marketing: Pleasures and Pitfalls
May 1, 2000

Several years ago I went to Peter, my doctor, for a routine checkup and saw some colorful boxes on the end of the counter. Patricia, the office manager and Peter’s wife, said they were dietary supplements for people over the age of 50. “Should I get them?” I asked. “I take them and I feel wonderful,” she said. “Do you and Peter get a piece of the action?” She said she did, which I had no problem with. So I ordered LifePak Prime for my wife Peggy and myself—60 little cellophane packages, each with four horse pills to be taken twice a day with

Developing a Turnaround Plan
January 1, 2000

The holiday season is over. Those record orders and sales days have finally come to an end. You are feeling optimistic about the season ending but then—reality sets in! You now find your company very short on cash. What do you do? Where do you turn? How can your company continue to operate? Welcome to the dilemmas of the mail order catalog business! Post-holiday rush is the time of year that many catalogers find they need to implement a turnaround plan to ease under-capitalization. Under-capitalization is a common problem among small- to medium-sized catalog companies, especially in times of low activity when

Going Global
October 1, 1999

Although Peruvian Connection didn’t launch its first international catalog until 1994, CEO and Co-founder Annie Hurlbut maintains the cataloger was an international company long before its first foray into the global market. As its name suggests, the Peruvian Connection has shared its history with the country and mountain people of Peru. Peruvian Connection began as a “happenstance” when Annie Hurlbut came home for her mother Biddy’s 50th birthday at Christmastime in 1976. At the time she was conducting research in Peru in pursuit of a doctoral degree in anthropology. As a gift she gave her mother an alpaca sweater she found in a Peruvian

Selling Science on the Web
October 1, 1999

SciTech International, an early Internet convert, now has fully integrated e-commerce Since SciTech International’s software products are aimed at the scientific, engineering and technical end-user from Boeing to the National Institutes of Health, it was a natural for the company to be an early convert to selling on the Web. “It was a natural fit since our target customers—scientists and engineers—were the first users of the Internet for research,” says Barry Moltz, president of the 6-year-old firm which sells software and other technical computing tools. Moltz, a former IBM employee who co-founded the Chicago-based company in 1993 with another former IBMer, explains that traffic