A Chat with July’s Profile, Howard Flax, CEO, FLAX art & design
CS: What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in the business, and how did you recover?
HF: When catalog sales started to decline about three years ago, we reacted late because we blamed external factors instead of internal. In truth, the catalog had become dated and stale. We recovered by going through a rebranding exercise that left us with a fresh, newly designed catalog and a new companion Web site that wound up winning a Webby award. Our customers responded quite favorably to the change.
The catalog took on more structure; the product groups were more thematically oriented or departmentalized. So there was a more logical feel as one went through the book.
The catalog is typically 56 pages. The amount of catalogs we do each year varies, but recently it has been about five. We do one big holiday catalog with three different covers for every drop. There is a mix of house and prospect in each of the drops.
CS: What sets your company apart from the others?
HF: Our product mix. We have a very eclectic, fun assortment. The goal, of course, is to inspire one to keep flipping the pages.
CS: What do you do to keep things more fun at the company?
HF: We have a basketball hoop and ping-pong table that get surprising little use. Most of the staff has been here for years and they are a close group, so there are a lot of potlucks and birthday celebrations.
CS: Have you had any mentors?
HF: We are a family-run company with my father, brother, sister and myself working together. My brother, Craig Flax, is our executive vice president and works primarily in marketing. My sister, Leslie Flax, helps out in numerous departments and together we represent the company’s third generation. For the better part of 20 years, I was lucky enough to work alongside my father, who was a mentor and more.