Alicia Orr Suman

Alicia Orr Suman
A Synergistic Approach

Reiman Publications uses both catalogs and magazines to expertly serve its loyal base of rural consumers. When the editors of Farm Wife News started producing T-shirts with slogans such as, “I’m proud to be a Farm Wife,” for their readers back in the early 1970s, they didn’t know that offshoot merchandise would launch a catalog business. A few years later, Country Store catalog was born, filling a niche in the rural marketplace. Ann Kaiser, managing editor of Taste of Home and editor of Country Woman magazine, was with the company 34 years ago when the catalog concept first was developed at Reiman Publications. She

B-to-B Goes ‘Plug and Play’

You’re flipping through a 500-page catalog for a major player in the janitorial and sanitation (jan/san) supplies market sector when you happen upon a section displaying waste containers. The catalog carries a host of well-known brands — including wastebaskets, can liners and other products made by United Receptacle. What you may not realize is that the other company’s catalog that you’re viewing actually features page layouts, photos and graphic designs produced not by that catalog, but by manufacturer and distributor United Receptacle. In addition to producing its own catalog each year to showcase its full product line, United Receptacle also helps many of

Five Ways to Make List Selects Work Harder for You

“List universes have shrunk, no doubt about it. And the economic climate is tougher than it has been in years for many catalogers, especially smaller niche titles like Design Toscano,” says Erik Martinez, the catalog’s vice president of marketing and information technology. So for Design Toscano, a home furnishings cataloger based near Chicago, looking for prospect lists with similar affinities is like looking for a needle in the proverbial haystack. Where have all the good prospect lists gone? “Some catalogs went under, while others responded to the economic climate by expanding into broader merchandise offerings,” Martinez notes. “That doesn’t help us, because

Power-Packed Product Line: Focus on B-to-B Merchandising

Ron Mis sees Galeton as the Dell Computer of the work gear industry: manufacturing and marketing its own product line to a loyal fan base. Mis, owner and president, likens Galeton’s business model to that of a true direct marketer, with cost advantages that a manufacturer enjoys when it sells its own goods direct to end-users. By selling direct in this way, Mis explains, it “makes our business truer to the original concept of a direct marketer than many who call themselves that today. Many who say they’re direct marketers actually are distributors of other manufacturers’ products,” he explains. Thus Massachusetts-based Galeton both

Dive Into a New Product Category

Introduction In this, our annual special report on merchandising, you’ll learn strategies on generating new product concepts from scratch. It’s a process that is part art, part science: from knowing when to listen to your hunches to understanding how to test products on the page. You’ll also learn six steps to successfully taking a plunge into a new merchandise category. And we’ve uncovered some best practices you can use to get your product vendors to deliver merchandise on time and on spec, and ultimately how to improve your day-to-day relations with product vendors. Lastly, you’ll meet one of your colleagues, Doreen Carstens, vice

Enter the Private Investor

In the past several years, the catalog industry has become an attractive target for financial investors. These private equity firms and institutional investors differ significantly from strategic investors looking to build their own businesses. When a cataloger like School Specialty buys 45 companies in the span of 10 years, its purpose is to build its own market share. Likewise, when Deluxe Corp. purchased New England Business Service last year. But it may be another scenario when an outside financial investor is the buyer. Such an investor may be in it only for the short-haul, to make money on the investment in three to

Engineered Online

SMC Corp. of America needed a better way to present its complex product information — a method that would supplement its print catalogs and help customers, primarily engineers, do their jobs better. The world’s largest original equipment manufacturer of pneumatic components, SMC has been making and distributing actuators, valves, compressors, pumps and electrical components since 1959 and selling them to industrial customers worldwide. In the past, SMC annually produced a half million hard-copy catalogs for promoting its more than 8,900 basic products with millions of possible configurations. But not only were the print books expensive to create, maintain and distribute, they quickly became

15-Minute Interview With Don Mokrynski

Don Mokrynski, chairman of Mokrynski & Associates and this year’s List Leader of the Year, talks about trends to watch in catalog lists and database marketing It’s been 26 years since Don Mokrynski founded the Hackensack, N.J.-based list brokerage and management company that bears his name, and he is one who has remained at the forefront of his industry every step of the way. Indeed, The Direct Marketing Association’s List and Database Council recently presented Mokrynski with its DMA List Leader of the Year Award. Catalog Success contributing writer Alicia Orr Suman spoke to Mokrynski a few days before he accepted the

Predictive Tactics: Five Database Modeling Strategies

If you think you’ve done all you can to improve the success rate of your list selections, you should stop reading right here. But if you suspect there’s more to be done, try database modeling. It’s a tool that can benefit nearly every catalog in terms of fine-tuning list selections — both on housefiles and outside lists. Here are five tactics to consider for boosting the effectiveness of modeling: Tactic #1: Recognize which kind of models can be most useful for you and will give you the biggest bang for the buck. According to Bryce Connors, director of the Consulting Services division for

The Causes of List Fatigue

List fatigue is top of mind for many direct marketers these days. What is list fatigue, what causes it, and how can you combat it? Reductions in catalog prospecting circulation over the past several years, in conjunction with shrinking list and co-op database universes and an overall weak economy, have led to what commonly is being referred to as “list fatigue.” How, you may ask, can a list become fatigued? Jo Ann Alberts, vice president of list brokerage and management firm American List Counsel, Princeton, N.J., explains: “Because of extensive cutbacks in prospecting and only utilizing the top lists, mailers are exhausting

Divide & Conquer: Focus on B-to-B Creative

For Edward Don & Co., supplying “everything but the food” has long been its motto. The foodservice equipment supplier sells its customers, including Applebee’s Restaurants and the Opryland Hotel, a range of items, from serving glasses, plates and napkins, to kitchen utensils, stoves and fryers. While those clients enjoy browsing their “Don” catalogs for the latest trends in how to use a martini glass to serve chocolate mousse, the same restaurant managers aren’t likely to buy a new $10,000 refrigerator unit off the page of a catalog. So Don’s 11 business-to-business (b-to-b) catalog titles always will be an integral part of the

A True Merchant

Merchants are born, not made, says Jennifer Anderson Benevides, merchandising manager at Sturbridge Yankee Workshop, a Portland, ME-based catalog of country-inspired home furnishings. A former apparel buyer for a retailer, Benevides is new to cataloging and is thriving on its multi-faceted challenges. She recently spoke with Alicia Orr Suman, freelance writer and the former editor in chief of Catalog Success. Catalog Success: How did you get involved in catalog merchandising? Benevides: I started at a retailer called Anderson-Little in Massachusetts right out of college. Though it’s no longer in business, it was a great training ground. It was a national company that sold

Private-label Products

In today’s hotly competitive retail marketplace, private-label products let catalogers set themselves apart from other merchants. “You can gain a competitive advantage if you’re smart about your product development,” asserts Karen Scott, founder of One Step Ahead and Leaps and Bounds, two catalogs of children’s merchandise. For Scott, that meant coming up with some new and original product concepts and getting them to market before the big retail chains. “The mass merchants have entered our market,” she says. “They’ve learned to copy goods and sell them cheaply. By designing some of our own products, it gives us back our competitive edge.”

What’s Your Merchandising Vision

What do companies like L.L. Bean, Coldwater Creek, Lands’ End, J. Jill, Victoria’s Secret, Williams-Sonoma, Ross-Simons, Pottery Barn, The Sharper Image, Cabela’s and Frontgate have in common? They all have a clear merchandise vision, says Chuck Howard, president of Howard Consulting, a Rockville, MD-based catalog consulting firm. “A merchandising vision is simply an understanding of the customer and his or her lifestyle,” he explains. But, according to Howard, it is one of the most difficult topics for catalogers to grasp. Most don’t truly understand the importance of merchandising, he laments. While numbers are the foundation of good merchandise planning, a lot of people

A Course to the Top

Open the front cover of its flagship catalog, and you’ll be greeted by a note that begins, “Who is School Specialty?” That’s a question this fast-growing $870 million company has no trouble answering. Having acquired upwards of 45 companies during the past 10 years, School Specialty now is a large and diverse organization with one common thread: to provide “everything but the textbooks” to the education marketplace, according to company CEO and President Dave Vander Zanden. Indeed, School Specialty sells desks and lockers; library and media room equipment; workbooks and supplemental education products; classroom decorations; art and gym supplies; awards and incentives; and