The Top 200
For years now catalogers have been talking about the rise of niche players: catalogs with unique products serving relatively small customer bases. This year's list of the top 200 catalogs as measured by customer (housefile) growth rates brings that trend into stark relief.
As you'll see on the fourth-annual Catalog Success Top 200 list (pg. 15), some fast--growing catalogers have hung their hats on unique merchandise offerings. For example, Music Stand (No. 1) sells music-themed apparel, gifts and accessories; M&M's World (No. 2) markets licensed products with the candy theme; and Nu Nubian (No. 15) offers Africa-themed textiles, books and other goods. No hawkers of "me-too" general merchandise, these catalogers offer carefully selected and unique products, and are enjoying growing customer lists as a result.
Other Top 200 catalogers have shunned the marketing tactic of targeting a wide swath of customers. Instead, they're effectively directing their offers to special-interest consumers, such as golfers (Golfsmith, No. 3); bird-watchers and ornithologists (Audubon Workshop, No. 4); wine lovers (Windsor Vineyards, No. 5, and Wine.com, No. 7); and even saltwater fishing enthusiasts (Offshore Angler, No. 8). No, the universe of names that might have an affinity for their products isn't huge. But targeting a niche audience, and then serving that customer base well, is the textbook approach to differentiating your company from competitors — and then reaping the rewards.
Take Outer Banks Outfitters (No. 9), a specialty merchant of boating supplies: This company has made the Top 200 list for three consecutive years, growing its customer list from 36,400 in May 2002 to 149,100 in November 2005, for a 309 percent increase during that time period. And Galeton Gloves and Safety Supplies (No. 94), a business-to-business merchant, also on the list for the third consecutive year, has grown its housefile by 79 percent since October 2002. Nice job!