Merchandise, Talent, Inventory, Brand Extension, PR and More Highlight NEMOA Session
Merchandise is still king. That was only one of a handful of themes taken from a wide-ranging and spirited session at last week’s NEMOA Spring 2008 Conference in Cambridge, Mass. This particular session included Derrick Egbert, president of New Perspectives; Allen Abbott, EVP/COO of Paul Frederick MenStyle; Jonathan Fleischmann, president/ CEO of the Potpourri Group; and Dana Pappas, COO/CFO of Plow & Hearth. It focused on the pressures of managing a catalog business in today’s uncertain economic times. Below are some of the tips/observations taken from the panelists and audience members.
* Merchandise: “It’s the starting point,” Fleischmann said. The need for collaboration among all divisions of a catalog company (i.e., marketing, analytics, operations, call center and other units) is more critical today than ever. “Picking names doesn’t matter,” he added, “if you can’t fulfill the orders properly.”
Pappas listed product as the leading factor in determining a catalog business’ success. “It has to be the right product at the right time,” he said, “and preferably developed in-house.” He mentioned his company’s recent success in its children’s division over the holidays, crediting its proactive approach in spreading the message of its products safety to its customers in light of recent dangers exposed (and product recalls) in some other children’s items.
* Hiring Quality Talent: Abbott spoke of the challenges Paul Frederick faces in hiring good catalog people. Being located in the small town of Fleetwood, Pa., doesn’t lend itself it to finding top talent, he said. He cautioned the audience members not to undermine the capabilities of the people within their own organizations. “You may be under-using some of your employees,” he said, noting that a talent search should begin in-house.
Egbert added that upper management has to be willing to invest decision-making power in its employees. This will speed up their ability to make these decisions in the future, he noted.