Dive Into a New Product Category
Catalog Success: How did you get involved in merchandising?
Carstens: My career in retailing began during graduate school as a sales associate at Pottery Barn, and that’s where I had my first exposure to a company with a passion for products. I also worked in retail at Liz Claiborne as a store manager, and that’s another operation dedicated to both its products and customers. Both of those experiences set me up for the opportunity that came along next.
Nine years ago a position opened up as merchandise coordinator for the Exposures brand [part of Miles Kimball]. The job reported to the vice president of merchandising, but was really in effect a liaison between the merchandising/creative office in South Norwalk, Conn., and the Oshkosh, Wis., home office. I held that job for two years.
Then I moved into the Miles Kimball gift division as a buyer for kitchen and personal care items — a position I held for over three years, when [I became] merchandise manager for the Miles Kimball catalog and Just Between Us, which is no longer published.
Since then, I’ve taken on the vice president responsibility for all the catalog brands in Oshkosh.
CS: What’s your role at Miles Kimball today?
Carstens: I oversee both the merchandising and creative teams for our four catalog titles. In merchandising, the team consists of 18 individuals: three merchandise managers, and buyers and assistant buyers reporting to them.
In the creative services team, we have 19 people to produce the four catalog titles. We’re a fully functional creative department — from concept/design to production and prepress. We’re able to hand over complete files to our printer, which is great because we don’t ever have the pressure of outside agencies impacting our schedule and deadlines. If we decide to reshoot an iconic product, we can do that. If there’s a little piece of data that jumps out at us about a trend happening and we want to take advantage of it in some way, we can stop and make a change in the catalog.