In 88 years in business, Hodges Badge Co. has never had an unprofitable year. But in this rocky year, a potentially negative bottom line was too real a possibility for it to rest on its laurels. Like so many catalog/multichannel merchants, Hodges sought to defray costs to ensure that its 89th year would also be profitable.
So Rick Hodges, president of this family-owned, Portsmouth, R.I.-based B-to-B cataloger of ribbons, rosettes, medals, presentation silver, sashes and buttons, targeted his biggest cost center — postage rates — as the focal point for potential savings.
His goal was to cut costs without reducing the circulation of his catalog, which accounts for more than 70 percent of company sales. His solution: change the catalog’s format to a slim jim, which created cost savings while allowing circ to remain stable. Beginning with its general athletic book this past August, Hodges Badge began mailing slim-jim catalogs.
Despite this year’s difficult environment, the company is roughly 4 percent ahead of last year’s sales total of around $14 million.
“We were looking ahead, trying to figure out how we could get our hands around the postage costs,” Hodges says. “And this was the only thing that really came along, because when we started talking about reducing circ to keep things under control, we didn’t really like the effect that we thought that that was going to lead to: reduced sales. I don’t think I can replace the catalog with the Web yet. So it wasn’t an option to say, ‘We’re going to cut the catalog by 50 percent and double our e-mailing.’”
It’s not as if Hodges Badge made the transition to a slim-jim format without any trepidation. While concerned the move could hurt response, Hodges says the company didn’t have a choice — increased postage rates were eating away at its margins.