The More Things Change …
“I don’t think the catalog business has really changed that much over the years,” contends The Nailco Group Founder and President Larry Gaynor. “The processes involved in producing a catalog haven’t really changed much.”
But he has little doubt that the business climate definitely has changed, with the Internet altering how B-to-B customers make purchases, and how catalogers communicate with their suppliers. So how does his company approach the old-fashioned world of cataloging in modern times?
“The cataloger really has to figure out, early on, its core competency,” Gaynor declares. Define your niche, model your database frugally. “It’s easy to hook up with a list broker, buy a million names and send out a million catalogs and get no response.” To that, he recommends testing 25,000 or 50,000 names, “and be patient.”
Catalogers also must decide whether they are catalog companies or Internet companies. “Today, there are far more Internet companies than catalog companies,” Gaynor says. “It’s much cheaper to be a pure Internet company than to be a catalog company today. With the capital required for a catalog company today — especially with postage going up 26 percent [or more] and paper going up another 7 percent — those entering the business really need to make that decision early on. Is the catalog there to support the Internet, or is the Internet there to support the catalog?”
Gaynor believes that the Internet serves to support the catalog, but that the catalog should still serve as the main vehicle through which the business can grow. “Can a catalog succeed without an Internet site? No. Can the Internet succeed without a catalog? Yes.”
So, what does this boil down to? Money, as always. “If you want to be in the catalog business, have the resources, funding and wherewithal to support all of it,” Gaynor advises. “If you don’t, then don’t do it.”