Profile of Success: A Cataloger Who Sticks Taffy Pulls a Profit
Background: The fourth generation in his family to run the business, Frank Glaser has led James’ Candy for more than 35 years. He grew up by the beach in Atlantic City, N.J., and gradually took over the business from his father and three uncles. In 1991, Glaser acquired Fralinger’s Salt Water Taffy, the James family’s longtime rival in the taffy business — both businesses were established along the boardwalk in the 1880s.
Then in 1999, Glaser decided to cash in on traditional holiday season mail order sales by launching a full-fledged catalog.
Biggest initial challenge: Initially convinced he could figure out everything he needed to know about cataloging on his own, Glaser spent two years trying to get the catalog business off the ground while still running the retail side of the company. But turning his list of retail customers into a mailing list, physically creating a catalog, and managing the resulting orders was beyond his skill level and his limited staff’s abilities.
How he dealt with it: Although he first had to come to terms both with his lack of catalog experience and the cost of bringing in additional help, Glaser in 2001 hired a catalog consultant and set up the James’ and Fralinger’s catalog as a standalone business. “The biggest problem in most businesses is not spending enough to educate yourself,” Glaser says. “Without that knowledge, you waste a lot of time and energy.”
Biggest current challenge: Managing growth. Since he set it apart from the retail business five years ago, Glaser’s catalog business has grown 30 percent each year. Although a tightening up of the company’s manufacturing arm in 2002 freed up additional space at its main offices, the expanding catalog call center and fulfillment operation has since filled that space. “I’m not sure we’ll be able to keep the catalog operations at this office while maintaining our high growth rate,” Glaser says.