War Stories: Managing a Photo Shoot on Location
February 1, 2001

E-mail to client: “I must strongly recommend against the proposed photo shoot location, on the grounds that one or more of the crew members could plunge 150 feet down the sheer cliff face to their death.” E-mail reply from client: “Life is risk.” Managing a catalog photo shoot on location is harder than it looks. In fact, a key part of a good project manager’s job is to make the job look easy, because a jittery project manager upsets the crew and slows the work. Whatever happens, as project manager your job is to take it all in stride, consider all your options and

Merchandise Spotlight: Books
January 1, 2001

The world of books is the most remarkable creation of man. Nothing else that he builds ever lasts: monuments fall; nations perish; civilizations grow old and die out; new races build others. But in the world of books are volumes that have seen this happen again and again and yet live on. Still young, still as fresh as the day they were written, still telling men’s hearts, of the hearts of men centuries dead. —Clarence Day Clarence Day was the main character of the great Howard Lindsay-Russell Crouse family comedy, “Life With Father,” that ran on Broadway all through the dark years of World

Migrating Merchandising from Catalog to Dot-com
January 1, 2001

As successful catalog merchants, you’re using merchandising techniques every day to deal with issues such as “can’t touch it, can’t try it on.” Let’s face it, returns are a hassle. When it comes to selling products online, familiarity with these issues is just one advantage you have over both Internet-only “pure-plays” and store-based, bricks-and-clicks e-tailers. Pure-plays have the formidable task of simultaneously launching and marketing a new brand, sourcing and perhaps stocking product, creating visual assets, implementing technology, handling fulfillment and developing a customer service component (no wonder so many have failed!). Bricks-and-clicks players have their branding and merchant skills in place, but

What’s In Your Catalog’s Future?
December 1, 2000

For the past two decades, I have written and spoken worldwide on the future of the catalog industry. My position has always been to challenge conventional thinking, and I have been right on some things and wrong on others, but hopefully always provocative. My early thoughts on the future of the Internet (1994) and its influence on catalog and direct marketing have been, for the most part, accurate. I predicted the growing importance of e-mail marketing, permission-based databases, proprietary databases and the surety of dynamic pricing as an outgrowth of self-directed, online commerce. In 1997, I was correct in my assessment of

Beauty Breakthroughs
November 1, 2000

Beauty products have long been located at the center of the department store. Elaborate displays of glimmering containers piled high on shiny counters hold promise of a more beautiful person. Now that beauty products have taken hold of the American consumer, luxe powders, shadows and creams are coming to the front door. In the past few years, beauty products have been making their way into major catalogs, such as Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, Saks and Henri Bendel. Lower-end beauty suppliers have made their way into catalogs too. Cover Girl is currently targeting teens through the popular Alloy catalog. After several years of

Creative Cut: Motherwear
November 1, 2000

Mothers who nurse their babies do so for an average of two and a half months—so a catalog of specially designed garments for breastfeeding moms would seem to have a small window of opportunity in which to sell. But customers of Motherwear in Northampton, MA, nurse an average of 16 months. Why? Partly because they love the clothes so much, according to what they tell company President Jody Wright. In the first three-quarters of the year Wright and her husband Prakash Laufer started producing the catalog, sales growth topped 350 percent. Prior to taking over the helm of Motherwear in 1986, Wright had

Merchandise: Children’s Furnishings Catch On
September 1, 2000

Kid culture is becoming the new money maker for home decor catalogers. Following on the heels of fashion retailers such as The Gap, The Limited and Talbots, which in the mid-1990s began offering children’s clothing that mirrored adult fashions, kid-sized products are now filtering into the bedroom and playroom. In the past several years, Neiman Marcus, The Company Store and Pottery Barn have all created catalogs for kids. These new catalogs are chock full of endearing offerings for kids—furniture, bedding and housewares—at adult-sized prices. Home Furnishings: Catalog Magnet According to data released in 1999 by Banc of America Securities, consumers spend an average of

BlissOut Catalog’s Perfect Marketing Makeup
September 1, 2000

Goops and scrubs, loofahs and lipsticks. All presented in bright colorful layouts. Seductive copy (“it’s more than treats the eye”) makes you want to buy this stuff so you, too, can feel good. And then there’s BlissGirl. She may not be perfect, but this illustrated character sure has fun living the spa life and trying out all the latest products the beauty world has to offer. Founded just four years ago, BlissOut catalog has come a long way in such a short time, due in large part to the vision of Bliss spa founder, Marcia Kilgore, and the know-how and enthusiasm of the catalog’s

Merchandise Spotlight: Down Comforters
July 1, 2000

Ooh, pretty—that’s the feeling one gets leafing through bedding catalogs. All the linens look crisp, fresh and inviting. But, from synthetic to the real stuff, nothing evokes the desire to crawl in and curl up quite like a down comforter. So it was surprising that several of the catalogs reviewed this month do not show their down comforters on a bed. And with the broad array of weights, materials and colors available for today’s down comforters, it was odd that only two catalogs of those surveyed offered the comforters in colors other than white. James Padgitt, president and chief catalog consultant of

Merchandise Spotlight: Cordless Phones
June 1, 2000

The 2.4 gHz Cordless Phone Means No more racing to the phone from the backyard—and It puts caller id right in the Palm of your hand Home and office telecommunications systems have come a long way in the past couple of years. With upgrades in office phone networks, voice mail and cordless phones, the evolution continues. The new 2.4 Gigahertz (GHz) cordless digital phone gets rid of many of the flaws consumers have suffered with their phone gadgetry. The phone enables people to have clear, static-free conversations without the confines of a stationary phone. With a range that allows the user to walk