Ed Note - By the Numbers
By Donna Loyle
This month we bring to the industry the results of an extensive Catalog Success study that identified the top 200 catalogers as measured by recent housefile-growth rates.
While we didn't find any broad trends — such as a spike among catalogers selling lower-priced items, as might be expected in a soft economy — we did uncover a few minor trends worth noting. For instance, you'll find a fair number of catalogs that sell primarily products for the home, children and pets. We think this confirms the notion that many people turned to family and home after Sept. 11, 2001.
The study also confirms something that, undoubtedly, you don't need proven by any industry-wide statistic: The last two years have been especially challenging for the catalog industry. Of the almost 1,300 catalogs whose data cards we examined, only about one-third grew their housefiles within the last two years. These are tough times indeed.
A Jan. 10 article in USA Today ("Retailers apply lessons from 2002 holidays to spring," by Lorrie Grant) offered merchants some valuable tips from retail consultants. First, get lean. Reduce inventory levels of ancillary products in your lineup and concentrate your sales efforts on primary merchandise.
Second, get style. "Unique merchandise has big margins simply because [customers] can't get it somewhere else," said Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners.
Third, get to VIP customers. Identify your power buyers and go after them smartly by using other media outlets such as opt-in e-mail.
What did some of the Top 200 catalogers do to boost their housefiles? Some increased circulation rates and instituted aggressive prospecting campaigns, while others relaunched Web sites and concentrated on improving their e-commerce sales. See the cover story beginning on page 15 for profiles of some of the Top 200.