Dive Into a New Product Category
CS: How do you stay focused on your company’s brand messaging as it relates to merchandising?
Carstens: We send blind surveys as well as report cards that have our identification on them.
We also rely on the industry for news about trends. We attend trade shows and have developed supplier relationships that help us stay informed about merchandise trends. All these steps help us select the right mix of products for each catalog brand.
CS: What are the biggest ongoing demands you face in your day-to-day job as a merchandiser?
Carstens: The search for new products each year is an uphill climb that we have to keep making over and over. It’s a never-ending challenge. If you look at all four catalog brands, we have to find 2,000 new brand-relevant products each year. It’s easy to talk about, but very challenging to execute.
CS: How do you select and source products?
Carstens: With four brands, it’s very important to have brand mission statements, product differentiators and brand manuals.
The product-selection process is different by brand. Each team has to understand what’s driving its business so it can design or purchase merchandise that will appeal to those customer segments. There’s a tremendous amount of analytical data available at the SKU and category level. Data can be used to determine merchandising decisions such as our key price points and which product lines should grow.
For example, we offer 95 percent exclusive products for Exposures, and 100 percent exclusives in the Miles Kimball gift card business. But for Miles Kimball gift catalog, the products tend not to be exclusive.
We’ll shop the housewares and gift shows looking for unique and appealing products. And we’ll give ideas to our suppliers and ask them for their ideas, too. It’s a real partnership with our merchandise vendors. They know us very well, and we rely on them for input and ideas.