Maintaining the Gold Standard
Of course, animal-themed products form part of the book’s core offerings, although Molholm is quick to note that certain animals sell better than others. “National Geographic is known for elephants, tigers, birds, penguins and polar bears,” she affirms. “Things like monkeys tend not to sell as well.”
Coleman characterizes the non-animal product trends as veering toward nostalgia and nesting, noting that sales from items such as the pinball-style Nostalgic Baseball Game, World War II Bomber Jacket, 1950s-style Radio and CD Player, and Mountaineering Monopoly have picked up considerably in the last year. Coleman attributes the trends to post-Sept. 11 consumer patterns: “Customers are looking for ways to reconnect with family and friends.”
On the Horizon
The catalog heads into its fifth year with several objectives in mind. Expanding its customer base is high on its list of priorities, says Coleman. The company currently uses consumer databases from Abacus and Experian for modeling and customer acquisition, and has expanded list rentals and exchanges.
A by-product of this expansion is that it brings more people into the National Geographic Society, a goal that Berkeley hopes to further. She states that this year alone, the catalog brought in more than 40,000 new customers that weren’t otherwise associated with the organization.
And, she says, the more people who become familiar with the National Geographic mission, the better. “With recent events, the mission is more relevant than it’s ever been,” she affirms. “And the value of the catalog is related to how it can support the mission.”
It helps that the book’s revenues don’t have to meet the profit margins of most catalogs; all of its net proceeds benefit the Society’s research, exploration, conservation and education initiatives. This way, staffers can concentrate on what they do best—finding and testing products that encourage consumers to explore and learn about the world.