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Teambuilding: Some Assembly Required
September 20, 2005

Have you ever had a team that just didn’t gel? Team members spent more time fighting and finger-pointing than getting the job done, right? Many managers spend precious time refereeing team members when they should be focusing on more productive and profitable endeavors. Why do some team members simply not get along? One reason could be that managers seek a certain type of team member(s) who are just like themselves, when instead they should aim for a mix of types. For example, a toolbox with only one type of screwdriver would be of limited use around the house. Rather, you’d need different types of

Data Analysis: Improve Earnings and Profits With Effective Data Analysis
September 13, 2005

Effective analysis of your customer data can improve earnings, profits and satisfaction, but the process must be unique to your organization. Measuring for success begins with the knowledge that quality data analysis provides a map from the past to the future. Consider the following tips: ¥ Identify your best customers by profitability and contribution. Some customers are excellent revenue generators while others are beneficial for inventory liquidation. Both are valuable to your organization as long as the marketing costs do not exceed the benefits. ¥ Profile individual buying patterns so your marketing department can target customers when they are most likely to buy. This

Executive Focus: Help Your Business Weather a Disaster
September 6, 2005

With the hurricane season getting an early and intense start, I can’t help but be reminded about the devastation from last year’s storms. Even if you don’t live in a hurricane zone, read the disaster preparedness tips below, because disasters in all forms (e.g., earthquakes, terrorist attacks) can strike at a moment’s notice. Moreover, natural disasters in other parts of the country can greatly affect your business. Devise some measures in your company to assure the continuity of your business in times of emergency. Most importantly, always have a plan B. Last year one of my clients was out of business for an entire week

A Chat With David Isham, president/CEO, National Roper’s Supply
September 1, 2005

© Profile of Success, Catalog Success magazine, September 2005 Catalog Success: When was the catalog established? David Isham: We mailed our first catalog in the fall of 1994. CS: Where are your headquarters? Isham: Decatur, Texas, a small town about 30 miles from the Dallas/Ft.Worth metroplex. CS: How do you describe your primary merchandise? Isham: Saddles, tack and western wear for the serious equine enthusiast. CS: What are your primary customer demographics? Isham: Active horse people around the country. Our catalog is the official catalog of the U.S. Team Roping Association and the U.S. Calf Roping Association. Our catalog was designed originally to be

How to Comply With the New Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards
September 1, 2005

The new Payment Card Industry (PCI) standards, which recently went into effect, are meant to help merchants beef up their data-security practices to better protect their customers’ credit card information — a commendable endeavor, indeed. But figuring out how to actually comply with the standards has left many merchants scratching their heads. Following are the answers to frequently asked questions about the standards. What is PCI? It’s a new, unified set of data-security standards from Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover card companies. Until this year, each card company had its own data-security standards. PCI, then, is a way for merchants to complete

Harness the Power of Strength-Based Strategic Planning
August 1, 2005

Employees have more confidence to envision the future when they carry forward the best practices of the past. Here’s how you can help them do that. Strategic planning enables you as a leader in your catalog company to identify long-term goals and mobilize your group’s resources to achieve sustainable results. Strategic planning also can be a powerful tool to identify and communicate your company’s core operating values and aspirations. However, all too often, strategic planning can be a frustrating exercise that offers little long-term impact or meaning for the average employee. How can you ensure that your planning efforts are effective, energizing

Catalogers of the Year
July 1, 2005

On the following pages you’ll meet the winners of the fourth annual Catalogers of the Year awards. We’re honored to recognize the contributions these three professionals have made to the catalog and e-commerce industries. This year’s winners exemplify the astounding level of quality in branding, customer service and merchandising this industry enjoys. The winners include: 1. a former museum director who now sells museum shop-quality educational toys to a national audience via her catalog; 2. a transplanted Briton who has built a thriving company selling telephony equipment; and 3. an industry veteran whose reputation as a maverick in branding, direct marketing and channel-integration

Key Performance Indicators: 10 to Track.
June 1, 2005

What key performance indicators (KPIs) are critical to a catalog business? What can you learn from tracking them? And how can you make changes and implement improvements based on your results? In this article you’ll learn about 10 KPIs that are critical to any catalog business. KPIs vary by catalog, as each has specific objectives and needs. You may have a KPI of, for example, the gross margin ratio, contribution ratio or net income — whichever best reflect your company’s goals. When selecting KPIs, choose ones that are quantifiable and therefore can be tracked. For example, a KPI to improve customer service can’t be

Studies in Cost-Cutting
June 1, 2005

The U.S. economy registered slower growth and higher prices in the first quarter, according to the Commerce Department. Gross domestic product rose at an annual pace of 3.1 percent, the slowest quarter in two years, and down from 3.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2004, the feds announced in April. Moreover, looking ahead, the news does not appear to get much brighter. For example, the National Retail Federation anticipates slowing retail sales this year, increasing only 4.8 percent, down from 7 percent growth in 2004. Many economists blame rising energy costs for the slowing economic growth. What’s a merchant to do?

Redcats’ Brand Revival
May 1, 2005

The name Brylane traditionally has been synonymous with deliberate sales growth and budget-priced, conservative clothing primarily for middle-aged, large-sized women. But when the Paris-based Redcats, the home-shopping division of French company PPR, bought the multititle cataloger in 1998, it set out to apply a broader, more aggressive — call it “worldlier” — merchandising and marketing formula to Brylane. Fast forward seven years, and although the sales growth has yet to take off, notable transformations in the merchandising and marketing approach, corporate structure and company culture all have kicked in. Two of the New York-based company’s top executives — Chairman/CEO Eric Faintreny

Contact Centers: How to Boost Contact Center Operations
April 12, 2005

Want tips on improving your contact center’s employee application and recognition programs? At the National Conference on Operations and Fulfillment, held in Grapevine, Texas, last week, several contact center experts offered their advice during the session”60 Ideas in 60 Minutes: Contact Center/Customer Service.” Here are three of their tips: ¥ Be sure you have a motivational fit: “When interviewing contact center applicants, tell them what the job actually will be like,” said Penny Reynolds, founding partner of The Call Center School, a Nashville, Tenn.-based company that offers contact center education. “Make sure they understand they won’t be getting a corner office, they’ll be tied to

A Grand Collaboration
April 1, 2005

For the good of your customers and company, staff members in merchandising, marketing and creative must learn to work synergistically. In my years working with direct marketing clients, I’ve worn all three of these hats. I’ve also directed collaborative efforts from a strategic management position. So I know these three catalog tasks can be done in a collaborative manner — and I know the outcome often is customer delight. Here’s how you, as a catalog senior manager, can encourage such efforts. 1. First, get everyone in the same room. Doors, walls, cubicles and continual e-mails can unintentionally create silos among your employees. Face-to-face

10 Statements a Catalog President May Not Want to Hear
April 1, 2005

We’re all guilty of occasionally hearing only what we want to hear. Sometimes we don’t want to face facts. Rather, we want to think what we want to think. We tend to do what’s comfortable and put off dealing with the issues at hand. In this article, I’ve identified 10 things you, a catalog company president, probably don’t want to hear. (Or if you report to a president, tear out this article and put it on his or her desk.) Listen to these cold, hard facts. 1. Your company won’t grow if you don’t prospect more. Invest in new buyers. You’re not always

Operations: Plan Ahead for Emergency Preparedness
March 1, 2005

If these last few years have taught us anything, it’s that you can’t be too prepared. From terrorist attacks to hurricanes and tsunamis, the unexpected could be just around the corner. Ready.gov, the Web site for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, offers the following tips on how to make sure your business is prepared to deal with and recover from emergencies beyond your control. 1. Figure out which staff, materials and equipment are required to keep your business operating. Have you reviewed and updated your business process flow chart recently? 2. Make sure you know which suppliers, shippers and other resources you need

Top Catalogers
March 1, 2005

The U.S. gross domestic product clocked a 4.4 percent gain in 2004, its strongest showing since 1999 when the economy gained 4.5 percent, according to the Commerce Department. And economists called the 3.1 percent gain in the fourth quarter “respectable.” Good news, right? Well, sort of. Our third-annual ranking of the Top 200 catalogers (as measured by housefile-growth rates) shows there still is some softness in the market. Of the 1,067 catalogs whose housefile numbers we checked, only 406, or 38 percent, recorded any growth at all. (For those readers who are new to cataloging, housefiles are customer lists.) That overall economic

Enter the Private Investor
March 1, 2005

In the past several years, the catalog industry has become an attractive target for financial investors. These private equity firms and institutional investors differ significantly from strategic investors looking to build their own businesses. When a cataloger like School Specialty buys 45 companies in the span of 10 years, its purpose is to build its own market share. Likewise, when Deluxe Corp. purchased New England Business Service last year. But it may be another scenario when an outside financial investor is the buyer. Such an investor may be in it only for the short-haul, to make money on the investment in three to

Nine Catalog Management Mistakes to Avoid
December 1, 2004

We’ve all done dumb things that I’m sure seemed smart at the time we were doing them. I look back to my 33-year career as a cataloger and can think of things I did that were really silly. It’s all part of the learning experience. This month, I’m taking a slightly different approach from my normal columns. At the suggestion of my friend and client Shep Moyle, president and CEO of Stumps catalogs, I’ve devised a list of nine catalog management mistakes to avoid. 1. Don’t hire experts, even when needed. Or hire/fire the wrong person. I’ve seen this happen:

Six Qualities Every Goal Must Have
November 21, 2004

Each business or personal goal you set should have specific qualities that offer you the best chance to accomplish them, according to Herbert Harris, author of “The Twelve Universal Laws of Success,” (LifeSkill Institute, Wilmington, N.C.). 1. The goal should be written down, committed to and even shared with others who will support and believe in your efforts, Harris writes. 2. Make sure the goal is realistic and attainable.”One of the easiest ways to set yourself up for failure is to select improper goals,” he continues. 3. The goal should be flexible and reflect change. 4. Make it concrete and measurable. “When the desired outcome is unclear, the

Cut Costs or Invest
November 1, 2004

Every business manager such as yourself must balance the need to cut costs vs. invest for growth. Which way the scale tips depends on several things, including the general state of the economy, political events, your own bottom line, and your company’s merchandising and operational strategies. As a business editor, I’ve noticed many articles published in the last few years touting cost-cutting measures. But as the economy rebounds, more and more attention is being paid to business investment for revenue growth. This month we offer articles for both camps. Our cover story examines the growth plans of gourmet food cataloger Mackenzie Limited.

Create Your Direct Marketing Dream Team
October 12, 2004

One of the keys to direct marketing success is to create a team of individuals who work well together for the common good without sacrificing individual integrity. The factors to consider when creating your dream team include the following: 1. Every member must bring a specialized skill set to the group, with an understanding that different skill sets may take priority at any given time. Unique talents strengthen the organization when they are used as needed. Continuous focus on a specific area will reduce the overall effectiveness of your company. 2. All team members must respect one another. Since respect has to be earned, it takes