Cataloger Spotlight: Great American Hanger’s New B-to-C Catalog Primed to Hang Around
Looking to grow its brand and leverage its successful B-to-B catalog business, The Great American Hanger Co. last year launched a B-to-C catalog. Though considered a gamble at first, the Miami-based cataloger of specialty clothing hangers has reaped rewards from the book. A year into the new business, the consumer catalog already accounts for 27 percent of the company’s total sales.
A Head Start
Although the nine-year-old marketer had only sold hangers to such industries as retail stores, hotels, cruise ships and closet manufacturers until recently, it did have a head start in the consumer arena. High-profile customers such as Jennifer Lopez and Jerry Seinfeld have placed orders both online and through Great American Hanger’s catalog call center; now they order through the B-to-C book.
He won’t reveal specific sales figures, but Christian Raphael, vice president of the catalog division, says the B-to-C unit was well ahead of projections for 2007. While not official at press time, overall sales likely topped $10 million for 2007.
With the new catalog, Great American Hanger attacked the consumer market aggressively, mailing seven editions last year with a total B-to-C circulation of more than 1 million. This year’s plan calls for 11 consumer catalog mailings and circulation twice that of 2007’s. In 2007, consumers received catalogs from the company, on average, every 52 days. According to Raphael, that gap will drop to slightly more than a month this year.
“The strong results reflect a couple of things, a significant increase in circulation as well as circulated pages,” Raphael says. “In addition, we’ve made a very significant commitment to database marketing. We intend to grow organically.”
Keys to Success
The existing B-to-B catalog’s success helped jump-start the B-to-C book. “We were able to pick and choose products from inventory we felt would appeal to consumers,” Raphael says. “We had a selling history to use, in terms of what we were going to put in the book.” The company also sought the advice of seasoned in-house and contracted industry professionals. Raphael credits this group not only for identifying prospect universes to mail, but also for printing, binding and mailing a very professional-grade catalog the first time out.
In addition to merchandising, the B-to-B catalog and Great American’s online channel provided a usable housefile of prospect names with favorable metrics for the B-to-C book. The consumer division also has done heavy prospecting to build up its own housefile.
Great American Hanger has maintained its B-to-B and B-to-C operations under one roof.
“A consumer might purchase a hanger that’s more unique or targeted toward a fashion need vs. a company that just wants to purchase 50,000 basic, functional plastic or wire hangers to use in store displays,” Raphael points out.
The different product lines create a brand identity for each catalog while keeping consistent with the company’s philosophy. The consumer catalog carries stylish and upscale products, while the B-to-B book features more functional hangers.
Searching to expand its product offerings, Great American found a way to incorporate a hot political issue with a new look in hangers. The company recently introduced bamboo hangers to its consumer collection, doing its part to be more environmentally conscious. Although it’s not including the hangers in the B-to-B catalog, the company is making them available on its Web site and accepting requests from B-to-B customers.
Bamboo is a more environmentally friendly choice than hardwood because of its quick growth cycle and ability to degrade in a nontoxic manner. The hangers are featured in the consumer catalog and on the company’s Web site along with other wood, chrome, plastic, cedar and velvet hangers. Called the Bamboo Collection, the new hangers are available in 10 different forms, including coat hangers, suit hangers, top hangers, combo hangers and bottom hangers.
True to the Brand
“Our goal in terms of the new types of products we’re going to introduce in 2008 is they’ll be true to our brand and who we stand for,” Raphael says. He’s banking on the bamboo hangers being the start not only of an environmental thrust for the company, but also a deeper run in the consumer catalog business.