Miles Kimball Chief Offers Recession Survival Pointers
Until just recently, one of the last places you’d expect to be a source for how to stay current and relevant would be the stodgy, old Miles Kimball Co. The Oshkosh, Wis.-based catalog marketer, which still receives a good number of orders via the mail from its primary audience of seniors, has thrived throughout the years by exuding a level of sameness in its catalogs year in, year out — giving it an old-fashioned look. A glance at the cover of a Kimball catalog might leave you shuffling around for a copy of your “Andy Williams Sings Rodgers & Hammerstein” album, circa 1958.
But Stan Krangel, president of the MKC Catalog/Internet division of Blyth Inc., which also operates the Exposures, Boca Java, The Home Marketplace, Walter Drake and As We Change catalogs, outlined several ways to roll with the punches this year and next in a session during the Sept. 16-18 NEMOA Fall Conference in Mashantucket, Conn. As proof, he injected how he’s modernized things at Miles Kimball over the past couple of years.
Krangel doled out some three dozen tips, some fairly simple, others more complex. Here’s a selection of them:
- Seek strategic opportunities to buy right. “If you have the cash or a parent firm that's able to help you, there are great values out there now,” Krangel said.
- Deeply scrutinize marginal activities. “Everything we do, if it isn’t incrementally adding profit, we stop,” he said. “That’s a little harsh, and you can’t stop innovating, but you have to look at your business from a different perspective.”
- Evolve without losing your customer base. Miles Kimball, Krangel said, “has a look of about 1961. We have a great customer base, but online our business doesn’t come from 62-year-olds; they’re 52. So online, we’re doing deep merchandise analysis to find out where our merchandise categories are growing. If you just do the matchbacks, you’ll lose the point.”
Krangel reeled off other quick tips rapid-fire. They include the following:
- Be mindful of, and understand, megatrends.
- Innovation has to continue, even in a downturn.
- Understand where your profit is coming from.
- Make your products relevant to your customers’ changing needs.
- Sales increases in the next few years will be from gains in market share.
- Develop a customer-centric culture.
- Focus on core customers, and be prudent with your prospecting dollars.