Mergers & Acquisitions

Ingredients for a Catalog Startup
September 1, 2002

The desire to create something, to invent something, was Eileen Spitalny’s dream since high school. “It was in the back of my mind in college that I wanted to start a business. I worked at the entrepreneur program at USC, reviewing new business plans, and I found the prospect [of starting a business] very exciting.” Spitalny and childhood friend David Kravetz had an idea for a business since they were kids: to sell David’s mom’s made-from-scratch brownies. They had no idea it would turn into a direct marketing business. Fairytale Brownies—the business Spitalny and Kravetz started in 1992—celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. Spitalny

Analyze Your Profit Contribution
August 1, 2002

Trying to maximize profit contribution can conflict with trying to grow your business. In other words, do you want profit or growth? Of course, you want both. Unfortunately, one of these goals comes at the expense of the other. Maintaining a balance of mailings to your customer file (where the profits come from) versus mailing to prospects is critical to your bottom line. How do you evaluate contribution from mailings to the housefile and catalogs you circulate to prospects? This month, I’ll discuss the incremental break-even point compared to a fully absorbed break-even point as they relate to contribution to profit

A Deal for Data
May 1, 2002

Like countless others, I’ve grown aware of how much personally identifiable information I inadvertently sprinkle around these days. But a recent retail incident left me astounded at how much data some merchants seek to collect. My husband and I devoted a Saturday to scouring a few furniture stores looking for a new sofa. We tested and examined construction, comfort and cost. We finally agreed on a plush beauty that we found in a store that’s part of a large, mid-Atlantic furniture chain. “How will you be paying?” the saleswoman asked. We told her we’d put 25 percent down when ordering, and

Slash Your Chargebacks
November 1, 2001

In a tightening economy, back-end fulfillment costs such as chargebacks—dispute mechanisms credit card customers use to reverse transactions—comprise a line item worth scrutinizing. Depending on the volume of chargebacks a cataloger is hit with in a set time period, fees (which are levied on a merchant) can run from $20 up to a whopping $150 per chargeback. “To say the least, chargebacks can get very expensive for merchants,” says Scott Martin, chief operating officer of EPX, a New Castle, DE-based electronic payment processor. Here’s how catalogers can reduce chargebacks generated from either customer disputes or outright fraud. Tips to Reduce Customer Disputes

How to Determine Your Catalog’s Break-even Point
November 1, 2001

To prospect for new buyers cost effectively, a catalog company needs to know its break-even point (BEP). I like to express breakeven on a per-catalog-mailed basis—that is, how much gross (or net) revenue must you generate per catalog mailed to hit your desired break-even target? This becomes your stake in the ground. All outside lists and housefile segments should be evaluated and measured against this break-even criteria. Two BEPs Two BEPs can be used: *an incremental (sometimes called variable) breakeven, and *a fully absorbed BEP. Mailings to prospects should be evaluated using an incremental BEP analysis. The fully absorbed BEP can

Selling Your Catalog: Prepare for the End Game
June 1, 2001

Sale, merger, IPO? It’s important to know, from the very inception of your business, how you will exit from it. The end game is a fascinating concept. It is philosophically universal, therefore having definition and meaning relative to life and living, religion, art, war, sports, investments—and ownership of a catalog business. When one thinks of the term “end game,” the two words “end” and “game” should be considered. First, it’s the end of a process, often the sale of a business or the harvest of wealth after a long period of creating and increasing value. Second, it’s a game, that is, a

Three Years and $3 Million to Break Even
October 1, 2000

The longer you’ve been in cataloging, the more variations you will have heard for this month’s rule of thumb. Over the years I’ve heard two years and $2 million, four years and $4 million, even five years and $5 million—but all variations seem to agree that it takes several years and about the same number of millions of dollars for a new catalog to reach breakeven. How reliable is this rule? Are there exceptions? Or has launching a successful catalog truly become a millionaire’s game these days? We’ll find some answers in this column, beginning with a precise definition of our rule: The

Developing a Turnaround Plan
January 1, 2000

The holiday season is over. Those record orders and sales days have finally come to an end. You are feeling optimistic about the season ending but then—reality sets in! You now find your company very short on cash. What do you do? Where do you turn? How can your company continue to operate? Welcome to the dilemmas of the mail order catalog business! Post-holiday rush is the time of year that many catalogers find they need to implement a turnaround plan to ease under-capitalization. Under-capitalization is a common problem among small- to medium-sized catalog companies, especially in times of low activity when

Going Global
October 1, 1999

Although Peruvian Connection didn’t launch its first international catalog until 1994, CEO and Co-founder Annie Hurlbut maintains the cataloger was an international company long before its first foray into the global market. As its name suggests, the Peruvian Connection has shared its history with the country and mountain people of Peru. Peruvian Connection began as a “happenstance” when Annie Hurlbut came home for her mother Biddy’s 50th birthday at Christmastime in 1976. At the time she was conducting research in Peru in pursuit of a doctoral degree in anthropology. As a gift she gave her mother an alpaca sweater she found in a Peruvian