A Chat With April’s Profile, Tim Burns, brand manager of Edmund Scientific
CS: What sort of challenges did you have to deal with when starting in the catalog business? And when you returned in 2004?
TB: Well, the brand was actually stagnating. Science Kit purchased it [Edmund Scientific in 2001] with the intention to grow it and hadn’t really gotten the type of growth out of it that they expected. So I came in to ramp up growth and really had to re-examine the merchandise position and the circulation plan. The plan was to shift it from a catalog business supported by a Web site, to a Web-based business that was driven by the catalog.
CS: What specific tactics were used to stimulate growth at Edmund Scientific?
TB: Let’s talk about the merchandise first. What I did is I went back to the basics. The really fun thing about Edmund is if you look at catalogs from say the 1950s, which I have, I have catalogs from all the decades that I go back and look at, is really the categories haven’t changed all that much. The products in those categories have made advances, the technology has changed, but we still sell telescopes and optics and microscopes and science toys.
It’s really very, very much the same. Gadgets and gizmos and all kinds of components and hobbyist type things. It’s very similar to the catalogs from 50 years ago. So I went back and I looked at those and looked at what we had and really just tried to get back to what the brand always had been and find new things that would support that.
CS: How was circulation affected by this decision?
TB: What we had been trying to do was to get more growth out of the spring, and it wasn’t really working. There’s a lot of money to be made in the gift business at holiday time. So I really tried to leverage that and increased our circulation, especially in the later drops. In 2005 we ramped it [circulation] up about 30 percent.
Joe Keenan is the executive editor of Total Retail. Joe has more than 10 years experience covering the retail industry, and enjoys profiling innovative companies and people in the space.