Pointers From the Pros: Printers Offer Their Tips for Mailing Smarter
June 1, 2007

Printers are full of useful (and free) advice for their catalog clients. Their suggestions range from doing more customizing and co-mailing to learning more about how the postal rate increases are affecting catalogers. Here are some of their top tips for catalogers: 1. Consider a trim cut to get into co-mailing. “Even a minor trim size modification may allow them to mail with other catalogers and save postal dollars,” advises Dave Blais, senior vice president of sales and administration at Quad/Graphics. 2. Make it personal. Customizing and personalizing catalogs is a growing trend, Blais notes. But more catalogers should consider it to increase response. “Some

Editor’s Take: On the Great Postal Disaster of 2007
May 1, 2007

With the much dreaded postal rate increase taking effect this month, hopefully by now most catalogers have made at least some of the adjustments needed to continue to grow — or at least survive. As we’re in the heart of the industry’s conference season, many have been feasting on scores of postal cost-cutting tips coming from presentations, special emergency sessions and the media. For our part, after breaking the news on our Web site ( about the Postal Regulatory Commission’s punishing catalog rate increase that was more or less hidden in its rate recommendation to the U.S. Postal Service’s Board of Governors,

Operations: Put an End to the Blame Game
April 6, 2007

If your catalog’s back-end operations are suffering from the”blame game” -- that is, contact center and distribution center (DC) reps have gotten into the nasty habit of pointing fingers at one another when problems arise -- try this team-building tactic offered by Liz Kislik, president of Liz Kislik Associates, a management consulting firm: At least once a year, bring your contact center reps to your DC and have them actually work there for a day, picking orders, packing boxes, etc. “This helps minimize the ‘they’ scenario. When reps are talking to customers about fulfillment problems, it helps the reps to understand the difficulties encountered

IndustryEye: Catalogers’ Updates, People on the Move & Letter to the Editor
April 1, 2007

Catalogers’ Updates Outdoor co-op cataloger Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI) in February said that $58 million will be distributed to its active members through its annual patronage refund based on the co-op’s 2006 sales of $1.18 billion. This is the second consecutive year in which sales rose more than 15 percent. Anyone can shop the REI catalog, Web site and stores, but only members share in the co-op’s profits. A total of 3.1 million active REI members received their patronage refunds calculated at 10 percent of their eligible 2006 purchases. Never Been Stronger In addition, based on 2006 results the outdoor retailer will dedicate

Recycled Knowledge
March 1, 2007

As a catalog marketer, you’re constantly battling to bring every penny to the bottom line. The winds of change have been blowing strong in the industry. Changes in postage and a strong resurgence in pressure from environmental groups ultimately will hurt profits. Be not afraid; at least one of the clouds on the horizon has a silver lining. I’d be hard pressed to say that any changes in the postal rates could be turned into a positive. But I can make a case that embracing recycled paper (or its environmentally friendly alternatives) can enhance your business in spite of the perceived cost premiums. First, it’s important

Recycled Paper: Seven Ways to Take Action
March 1, 2007

It’s easy to say you want to learn about using recycled paper, but it’s not a whole lot more difficult to do something about it. Consider these seven pointers: 1 If you’re a large cataloger, act on this changing climate now, plain and simple. Organizations like Forest Ethics will be on your tail soon enough if they’re not already. 2 If you’re a small to medium sized catalog, such as my previous employer — Lydia’s Uniforms, where we mailed about 20 million catalogs a year — learn about this issue; use it to your advantage. All catalogers can present themselves as environmentally friendly without

By the Stats: Catalogers Software Expenditures Plunge by More Than 40 Percent
February 20, 2007

A report released recently by research firm The Industry Measure shows that catalogers will spend 42.6 percent less on software this year than last year. Specifically, the firm estimates that catalogers will spend $5.89 million, compared to $10.26 million last year. The reason for the huge drop, The Industry Measure says, is because this year will represent the culmination of a wholesale transition from outsourced to insourced prepress for catalogers that began in the early 2000s. What’s more, catalogers and other publishers have been shifting more of their marketing materials to the Web, e-mail and other online alternatives to print. Such choices don’t often require software

Insert Media: A Miniature Resurgence
February 1, 2007

Like other insert media programs, such as package stuffers and blow-ins, miniature catalogs have been around a long time. But in recent times, their popularity among catalogers appears to be on the rise. Catalogers as diverse in nature as nursing mother products marketer Motherwear International and B-to-B uniforms mailer UniFirst Corp. have been successful marketing through mini-format catalogs. What’s more, multi-title apparel and food cataloger Crosstown Traders plans to test its first miniature later this year. Defined primarily as having no more than 24 pages at various dimensions, miniatures can be a more efficient way to get your product offerings in front of

Strategy: Should You Purchase Your Own Paper?
January 1, 2007

Purchasing your paper direct through a paper merchant might be a way to save money, but it’s not for all mailers. This month, I’ll help you determine if you’re a candidate to purchase your own paper and what it can mean in terms of savings, as well as the risks and common misconceptions associated with it. While printers traditionally have been more qualified to purchase and manage paper than most small- and medium-sized catalogers, the management and economics of purchasing paper have changed in the past few years, often making it wiser to buy your own paper. Paper merchants have made it easier to

Postal Remedy: New, Lighter Papers
November 1, 2006

Ever since the U.S. Postal Service implemented the first of several blockbuster double-digit rate increases back in the late 1980s and early ’90s, many catalogers have been readying themselves for subsequent rate hikes with cost-cutting measures. The most prevalent one has been, and continues to be, a reduction in paper weight, as well as trim size. Many mailers have trimmed about as much as they can over the years from their books’ dimensions. And with a 9 percent increase in Standard mail postage looming for next spring, which comes on the heels of another postage increase earlier this year, testing out lighter paper grades