A Chat with July’s Profile, Howard Flax, CEO, FLAX art & design
© Profile of Success, Catalog Success magazine, July 2007
Interview by Gail Kalinoski
Catalog Success: When was the catalog established?
Howard Flax: We mailed our first catalog in 1984 to a file of 10,000 names.
(Editor’s Note: The firm was started by Howard Flax’s grandfather, Herman Flax, who opened an art supplies store in San Francisco in 1938. Herman’s brothers also ran art supplies store in New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago. Other family members later started stores in Phoenix, Orlando and Atlanta. They are all independently owned and the San Francisco store is the only one with a catalog.
After Herman passed away in 1952, his sons Philip and Jerry ran the business. Philip is currently the chairman and his children, including Howard, are the third generation to run FLAX Art & Design. The retail store is located at 1699 Market St. in San Francisco. In 1985, as the catalog’s success grew, the company moved its distribution and customer service centers to nearby Brisbane, Calif.)
CS: What is your primary merchandise?
HF: As our name implies, the items we sell contain either an ‘art’ or ‘design’ component. Our strongest category is arts and crafts supplies, though we have become a gift destination with strength in a number of different categories, including wearable art and home décor kits. Wearable art designs include apparel and accessories such as socks, ties and jewelry.
CS: What are the number SKUs?
HF: Catalog 600, Web site 3,000.
CS: What is the current number of employees at the company?
CS: What was your biggest initial challenge?
HF: Finding that balance between the product offerings and markets into which we mailed. It’s a constant challenge. We’re always trying to have consistent and strong metrics to put forth the merchandise that the customers are looking for.