Editor In Chief

Editor In Chief
Managers Share Secrets of Success

From setting schedules for supervisory duties, to mystery-shopping overflow call centers, to setting bonus structures for seasonal workers — four catalog and contact center managers reveal how they tackle daily challenges. Debbye Schneider, contact center manager, Fire Mountain Gems, Grants Pass, Ore. Merchandise: jewelry-making supplies to consumers and businesses Contact center employees: 85 to 104 Overflow/after-hours contact center: Donnelly Communications Catalog Success: What are your top challenges, and how do you overcome them? Schneider: We’ve been steadily ramping up for the past five years. My staff of customer service reps has tripled since then. Because of the growth, I have

UpFront Solutions for Tough Times

Trying times reward the prepared. In this age marked by a down economy and international upheaval, it’s best to be prepared for how a crisis may impact both your customer base and your company’s operations. Two new guides can help catalogers plan for crises. “Contingency Planning for Catalogers During International and Domestic Crises,” a white paper published by The Direct Marketing Association (DMA), outlines possible risk scenarios and offers an issues checklist for each area of a cataloger’s operations. The authors, Fred Anderson, senior financial consultant, AndersonDirect, and Peter Johnson, Ph.D., senior economist at The DMA, advise catalogers to prepare for downside

25 Tips to Boost Web Traffic & Sales

As the difficult economy soldiers on, undoubtedly you’re looking to improve sales from all channels, including your Web site. But how will you do so? Amy Africa, president of Creative Results, an online research and consultancy based in Williston, VT, offered attendees of last fall’s conference for the New England Mail Order Association the following tips for e-tailers who want to increase Web traffic and generate more sales. 1. Make your site load fast. The average site loads in 46 seconds on a dial-up modem, but most people decide if they’re going to stay on a site within eight to 12 seconds. So they’re

Online Sales: The Bright Spot of the 2002 Holiday Season

Though overall sales may have lagged during the 2002 holiday shopping season, a notable increase in online purchases gives catalogers reason to keep their chins (and hopes) up. Consumers spent almost $13.7 billion online during the 2002 holiday-shopping season, marking a more than 24-percent, year-over-year increase from 2001, according to the eSpending Report from The Goldman Sachs Group, Harris Interactive and Nielsen/NetRatings. Compounding this is a new survey from The Direct Marketing Association, which found that 78 percent of catalogers increased their holiday Internet sales in 2002, with an average percent increase of 47.3 over the 2001 holiday season. Several catalogers said

Meeting Today’s Challenges

Charlie Silver has been in the direct marketing and catalog industries for his entire career. But his education was in accounting and finance. His first job upon graduating from Rutgers University in the 1970s was as a budget accountant at Scholastic magazine. “I liked the analysis part of my job more than the accounting,” Silver recalls of his days at Western Publishing. When Western moved in 1978, Silver took a post at Berkey Photo as a senior financial analyst. Later, he was promoted to marketing manager. “I liked the marketing. It was exciting to me to come up with new ideas and see them

The Complexities of Shipping & Handling Fees

Flip to the order form of any catalog or go to the checkout of a cataloger’s Web site, and you’ll find one truth: There’s no standard for shipping and handling (S&H) fees. What a catalog charges to ship product depends on many factors, such as type of product (soft goods or hard goods) or the shipping method chosen by the customer. Others are less-than-obvious and depend on how the cataloger chooses to account for S&H in its operations. These variables make S&H a widely debated topic. According to F. Curtis Barry & Co., an operations consulting firm, about half of catalogers charge

Gifts from the Florida Sunshine

One night in 1950, a truckload of grapefruit was late in arriving at Ed Cushman’s tiny fruit packing business in West Palm Beach, FL. Cushman was there supervising as the grower’s truck was being unloaded. As the last 20 bushels came off the truck, Cushman asked the workers, “What the devil is this? These aren’t grapefruit!” Said the driver, “I don’t know. I just deliver what they give me.” Turns out this particular grower had a few trees of Mineola tangelos, and they almost looked like orange bells. “My dad came up with the name ‘HoneyBell’,” says Allen Cushman, now president of

After the Rain, Sun

IN THE DAYS IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING the TRAGEDY of Sept. 11, 2001, the horrific event and what it was going to mean for our nation was all anyone could think about. Television networks covered the news of the terrorist attacks 24 hours a day, pre-empting all normal programming. Family, friends and co-workers talked constantly of what had happened to try to make some sense of it all and share their collective sense of loss. By the first weekend after the attacks, I couldn’t take any more of the sad and scary news. So I decided to turn off the TV and get out

Spiegel Takes Fashion Forward

Melissa Payner is a risk-taker. The 43-year-old retail industry veteran has been president and CEO of Spiegel Catalog for only 10 months and already has turned the place on its head with new merchandising, catalog creative, advertising and promotions. It doesn’t matter that the economy remains in a slump and catalog industry sales are down: Payner is excited to be breathing new life into Spiegel Catalog by refocusing on its customers and strengthening its brand image. There’s no arguing that Spiegel needed a change when Payner took the reins. Looking back five or six years, one might describe the catalog’s branding as

So Who’s Laughing Now?

Funny isn’t it that only a short time ago some people were telling jokes about print media such as catalogs, direct mail, magazines and newspapers. Many said these forms of communication would be dead as dinosaurs in a few years, thanks to the advent of the Internet as a marketing channel. Some even abandoned their long-time work in the print media industries in search of more glamorous jobs out in the great World Wide Web. But look inside your mailbox today and, lo and behold, you may find a catalog or brochure from one of the leading online marketers. Those who laughed at

Adding a Little Fat to the Bottom Line

At the conclusion of my most recent hotel stay, I nearly went into sticker shock when I got my bill. Not only was the nightly rate exorbitant for a plain old room in the major hotel chain (my colleagues and I chose it solely for its proximity to the town’s convention center), there were numerous add-on charges that made the total fee downright outrageous. “For that much,” I thought to myself, “I should have been slathered in luxury, not given teeny bars of soap and small, scratchy bath towels.” On top of the base room rate were sales taxes, city taxes, occupancy taxes, business

Hershey Direct: Staging a Sweet Holiday

As with holiday gift shopping, the best way to ensure a happy holiday season for your catalog operation is to do as much as you can ahead of time—from planning and production to picking, packing ... and even loading the trucks. For Hershey Direct, the catalog arm of Hershey’s Chocolate World, a division of Hershey Foods, the Christmas holiday is by far its busiest season, drawing a whopping 85 percent of the division’s sales activity. (The second and third busiest seasons are the spring catalog, which mails in time for Mother’s Day, followed by the Valentine’s Day catalog.) Ramping up for the big rush

Lillian Vernon: Merchandising Maven

Lillian Vernon began selling personalized belts and handbags with a black and white ad 50 years ago. Now, the company offers more than 6,000 items through nine catalog titles and a growing Web business What do Katie Couric, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Hillary Clinton all have in common? It’s not their political affiliations. Think porcelain Easter baskets and personalized bean bag chairs. Now you get the picture: These celebrities are among the 23 million people who have shopped the pages of Lillian Vernon’s catalogs. The namesake business Lillian Vernon launched in 1951 on the kitchen table of her small, Mount Vernon, NY, apartment has

Top brokers describe today’s challenging catalog list market

Finding fresh sources of names to mail has always challenged catalogers. Lately, it’s become more competitive as catalogs all seem to mail into a finite universe of buyers. But catalog list brokers say they’re having some success helping their clients break new ground using tools from non-catalog compiled lists and publication files. Not only is the Internet a research tool for mailers and brokers, but it also is a developing source of new names. Read on for insights into the state of the catalog list market from five list professionals: • Steve Mickolajczyk, president, Brokerage Division, Catalyst Direct Marketing; • Donna

Great Customer Service Starts with Great CSRs

In today’s highly competitive catalog arena, service has become a make-or-break proposition for many companies—not a nicety. To stay in the game, it’s imperative that catalogers provide real service to their customers, not just lip service. “Service should benefit the customer, not just be a marketing tactic for the company,” says telemarketing consultant Liz Kislik, of Liz Kislik Associates. “Failing to meet this need by providing inadequately trained and/or non-service oriented [customer service] reps will guarantee failure,” adds Frank Fuhrman, director of sales, customer contact services, for DialAmerica Marketing, a telemarketing firm in Mahwah, NJ. The firm works with catalogers in the giftware,