A Burdensome Plan
February 1, 2006

The Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement (SSTA), in the planning stages for many years, finally went into effect on Oct. 1, 2005. So far, it’s a voluntary program in which remote sellers collect state and local sales taxes and remit them to the jurisdictions in which their buyers reside. As you know, merchants currently are required to collect state and local taxes only if they have nexus (a physical presence such as a store or headquarters) in the state. Consumers are expected to pay sales taxes on their online and catalog purchases. Of course, most don’t bother or don’t know it’s required. As

Trim Costs After the Postal Rate Increase
February 1, 2006

From improved data hygiene practices to a better print contract, a little savings here and there really can add up. Last month’s postal rate increase of 5.4 percent should have caught no one by surprise. If you’re looking for ways to save on other parts of your operation in order to pay for your higher postal bill, you’ll find many options. In the first part of this article, you’ll learn about list hygiene tools that aren’t just important to offsetting the postal rate increase, but are good strategies to keep your housefile healthy and responsive. In the second part, we’ll offer tips and caveats

Cool Ideas
January 1, 2006

In a world of cynics it’s easy to focus purely on what needs fixing or what’s just plain silly. Yet no doubt you agree that it can be refreshing and heartening to concentrate on the positive things one sees in daily life. Here are a few I encountered in the past few weeks: Gift cards for various merchants sold in supermarkets. A display at my local Super Fresh included gift cards for companies such as Bed Bath & Beyond and The Home Depot. Talk about convenient holiday gift shopping for consumers and an added distribution channel for merchants. To whomever thought of that idea,

A Chat With Paal Gisholt, President/CEO, SmartPak Equine
January 1, 2006

© Profile of Success, Catalog Success magazine, January 2006 Catalog Success: When was the catalog established? Paal Gisholt: The catalog was established in April of 2002. Prior to that, we were a dot-com company that started in June of 2000. CS: How do you describe your primary merchandise? PG: We have a core product offering, which is custom-packed equine nutritional supplements in daily-dose packs. We’ve used that as a platform from which we sell all different types of products that are useful to people who ride horses. Those are things like horse clothing, barn and stable equipment, rider gear, pharmaceuticals for horses, etc. And

What’s New in Packaging Solutions
January 1, 2006

With Americans spending as much as $26 billion on holiday gifts online in the past two months, an increase of 18 percent from 2004, according to Jupiter Research, chances are good you’ve just shipped a record number of packages. As you begin to assess how well you weathered the holiday rush, consider how your customers received your products. Did all your packages arrive in one piece? How many returns were due to damaged merchandise? Following are new products and services that can help keep your packages safe and your fulfillment center in top form. Foam Packaging Delivered at Room Temperature Instapak

How to Determine if Co-mailing is Right for You
December 1, 2005

Co-mailing (also known as co-mingling) is the process of combining different catalog titles from different catalog companies into one mail stream to generate more carrier route discount mail. On the surface, co-mailing sounds like a great idea. Why would any cataloger be opposed to co-mailing if it resulted in a greater postage discount? However, co-mailing can be challenging. Five Requirements 1. All of the catalogs in the co-mailing must be the exact same trim size. 2. The ink-jet areas must be the same on both the order form/page and on the back cover. 3. All of the participating catalogs must have page counts

Postal Strategies: Reduce Mailing Costs
October 11, 2005

It’s likely we’ll see a 5.4 percent increase in postal expenses in 2006. To us mailers, the meaning is simple: 5.4 percent less contribution to overhead and profits. We’ll need to rethink list and circulation strategies to keep some of our marginal lists within our allowable metrics. Therefore, we’ll either have to: ¥ scrap the mailing lists that aren’t performing within allowable metrics; ¥ review customer lifetime value and allow for a longer payback process (the time it takes to recoup the investment into acquiring a new customer), and a deeper loss per customer acquired; or ¥ reduce catalog expenses to an amount commensurate to the postal

Drop Those Rates
June 1, 2005

Problem: Multititle cataloger Shindigz/Stumps wanted to reduce overall transportation expenses, while retaining flexibility in its product shipping options offered to customers. Solution: The multichannel merchant put its parcel shipping business up for bid. Results: A switch in carriers enabled Shindigz/Stumps to reduce its overall transportation costs by 27 percent. Brad Grimsley knew he needed to make some changes. The vice president of service and fulfillment at Shindigz/Stumps, a South Whitley, Ind.-based party and prom supplies merchant, says he noticed soon after arriving at the company in 2003 that he had an opportunity to reduce shipping expenses. Meanwhile, the company’s overall order volume

How to Offset Postage and Paper Increases
April 1, 2005

Rex Ciavola, senior vice president of marketing operations at Office Depot and Viking Office Products, doesn’t let minor setbacks like postage and paper hikes dampen his spirit. Rather, he sets out to find other ways to attain the Utopian, “better, faster, cheaper” way to print. Ciavola oversees the A-to-Zs of both of the organizations’ marketing initiatives, including all retail advertising, direct mail, inserts and catalogs. He leads a collaborative, global marketing and production organization that includes the Office Depot team in Delray Beach, Fla.; the Viking team in Torrance, Calif.; and teams based in Europe and Japan. The combined organizations have internal staffs that

Eight Money-saving Ideas for 2005
January 1, 2005

Since the beginning of the calendar year often is the start of a budget year, I’ll discuss some ways to save your company money and improve your bottom line in 2005. Hopefully you’re finishing a great holiday season, and instead of needing these savings to make ends meet, you can use them to increase circulation or catalog page count for next holiday season. In addition, these ideas may help you offset the impending postage increase. (For more, see this month’s column by my colleague, Stephen Lett, page 39.) Here, I’ve listed the ideas in order of potential magnitude, with the last ones