Dive Into a New Product Category
With the Exposures catalog, we have tremendous relationships with suppliers in Italy, the United States and Asia. These relationships have been in place for close to 20 years.
Sometimes the ideas can come from the suppliers — maybe a new product, maybe they have a new manufacturing technique whereby we can offer a different price point.
But overall, 90 percent of new product ideas come from us here in Oshkosh. And looking for new categories and classifications is ongoing. We’ve had success with some new categories [in Exposures] — product development in nontraditional areas such as all-occasion cards, custom and commemorative products. These have joined Exposures’ albums and frames and are doing quite well. We hope with any new Exposures product introduction that it can be personalized, as many of our signature items can. And it needs to be something unique. Those are hallmarks of Exposures’ merchandise.
CS: Given your experience, what do you think are the keys to catalog merchandising success?
Carstens: I think it’s the following:
-understanding the needs, wants and expectations of the customer;
-delivering the brand promise across all channels by using strong analytical tools; and
-collaborating with marketing and creative on brand delivery.
CS: What do you see as your own greatest challenges for the future?
Carstens: Merchandising teams today have access to an increasing amount of information about customers and products. But we’ve only begun to tap into this data and its potential. Therein lies our greatest challenge: figuring out how to utilize the great data warehouses we have to answer merchandising questions that will help us run our business more efficiently and profitably.
Also, how can we utilize technology to build our catalog? Deciding what products go where and physically building the catalog each time out is a very labor-intensive process. There are software packages today that can help in automating parts of the production cycle that we still do largely by hand. Miles Kimball currently has a team researching this endeavor, and I look forward to their recommendations.