B-to-B Cataloging: Are You Right Sized?
Not long ago, an art director for a “big book” cataloger asked me to critique her work, a catalog the size of a large metropolitan phone directory. Paging through, I asked what kind of sales analysis was performed on the merchandise, because the catalog promoted more than 30,000 unique SKUs. She replied none. The marketing department couldn’t hire more staff, and no one had time.
Urging her to do something about that, I warned her that her company could end up building a new warehouse to store a lot of SKUs that aren’t selling.
She reached toward me, gripped the catalog in her right hand and flipped it to the back cover. There, proudly featured, was an aerial photograph of the company’s new 100,000-square-foot warehouse expansion. Too late!
As we reviewed the catalog spreads, it not only became obvious that pages and pages of product weren’t selling, but also that entire sections of the catalog had minimal sales. The company couldn’t afford to employ a single merchandise analyst, but could afford a million-dollar warehouse expansion and the additional staff to run it.
These situations occur when product continually is added to a catalog but no items are cut, except for discontinued merchandise. As time passes, these catalogs can grow to the point where they seem to take on lives of their own. Too often the only people making a profit from these extra pages are printers.
So what should this cataloger have done before constructing a new building to house products that weren’t selling? Although the obvious answer is to analyze its sales, in this cataloger’s defense, the question of how to go about studying 30,000 SKUs can appear daunting.
The Big Book Challenge
If you have a catalog of more than 300 pages, you probably can’t run a full square-inch analysis, measuring and assigning advertising space to each product. But you still can produce meaningful reports that guide your merchandise selection, pagination and ultimately your page count. The key is determining the goal of your analysis. In this case, you want to determine which categories potentially could be expanded and which likely should be reduced in terms of page count.
A columnist for Retail Online Integration, George founded HAGUEdirect, a marketing agency. Previously he was a member of the Shawnee Mission, Kan.-based consulting and creative agency J. Schmid & Assoc. He has more than 10 years of experience in circulation, advertising, consulting and financial strategy in the catalog/retail industry. George's expertise includes circulation strategy, mailing execution, response analysis and financial planning. Before joining J. Schmid, George worked as catalog marketing director at Dynamic Resource Group, where he was responsible for marketing and merchandising for the Annie's Attic Needlecraft catalog, the Clotilde Sewing Notions catalog, the House of White Birches Quilter's catalog and three book clubs. George also worked on corporate acquisitions.