Develop Better Shipping Plans
March 1, 2003

The following is a checklist to help you develop cost-effective and customer service-oriented shipping plans. The direct-to-consumer in-dustry finds itself at a crossroads in terms of shipping and handling (S&H) policies and charges. Specifically, some studies show consumers are refusing to place orders if the S&H charges are perceived to be out of line with those charged by competitors. But S&H is a necessity for most catalogers. It often represents 8 percent to 10 percent of a catalog’s average order and net sales, and it offsets some of the pick-and-pack labor, outbound freight charges, and packing materials needed to ship consumers their orders.

Track Your Results with Source Codes
January 1, 2003

One of the aspects of cataloging that I’ve found useful is that everything you do from a circulation and marketing standpoint can be tracked to a specific source, or key, code. When a marketer runs an image ad (non-direct-response) in a general interest magazine, for example, it’s difficult to know the effect the ad has on sales. But when you, as a cataloger, run a direct response ad or mail a catalog, most of the orders can be traced to a source, so your marketing and circulation efforts can be measured. This month, I’ll offer examples of the common list results you

Taking a Bite Out of Undeliverables
November 1, 2002

Niche cataloger Shari’s Berries International guarantees that its chocolate-covered strawberries reach recipients a mere day after they’re dipped—a business plan that puts a heavy emphasis on reliable address data. Indeed, according to Lowell Feil, vice president of operations, until May 2002 his department experienced delivery address problems with about 10 percent of its orders. Though the company’s FedEx shipping system caught nearly all of these during the package-scanning process, catalog call center reps then had to call and re-verify the addresses. This not only strained call center resources, it often resulted in delayed product shipments and ruined customer surprises. Company executives

Postal Reform: A Call From the Trenches
November 1, 2002

“I pay $3 million a year to the U.S. Postal Service, and I wasn’t going to just say ‘OK’ to their continuous rate increases,” said Chris Bradley, president and CEO of Cuddledown catalog, during a jam-packed session on postal reform held at the New England Mail Order Association’s (NEMOA) conference in New Hampshire in September. Bradley and a group of other Maine-based mailers, including catalogers, printers and direct marketers, banded together earlier this year in an effort to educate their legislators on the impact that three postal increases in 18 months has wrought on their companies. Their efforts are instructive for other mailers

Postal-Mailing Solutions
October 1, 2002

Want to raise productivity levels in your mail and call centers? Who doesn’t—especially in the wake of the U.S. Postal Service’s (USPS) latest round of rate increases. To be sure, postal/mailing solutions encompass a vast array of products and services. Here we offer a small sampling of the numerous technology applications designed to save your company’s mail and call centers time and money. This list, while far from exhaustive, includes software that you can purchase, free applications available to customers of some outsource providers and Web-based application service providers. When known, we’ve included some cost estimates for these solutions and services.

Honesty as the Best Shipping Policy
September 1, 2002

Challenge: How to ship low-cost, high-weight items from the U.S. Northeast to customers all over the country without having customers balk at spending more on shipping than they did on the products themselves. Solution: Charge customers only what you pay for the actual shipping and handling charges, and make the ordering process transparent enough so customers know it. The Baker’s Catalogue, based in Norwich, VT, sells flour, yeast, baking utensils, cookbooks, salts, sugars and other baking essentials. Many of its products are in lower price points, such as five-pound bags of bread flour for $3.50 each. Undoubtedly, telling a customer who

Paper: What Top Catalogers are Using and Why
August 1, 2002

Postage, printing, presentation: There’s a lot to consider when choosing a paper type for your catalog. Catalog Success asked some leading catalogers how they decide which type of paper to use, and how they think it impacts their sales. Michele Rick, director of customer acquisition, Crutchfield catalog Product: Consumer electronics Circulation: About 35 million catalogs mailed per year Catalog Success: What type of paper are you using now? Rick: We have two types of books. Our big book has a 144-page body with a four-page cover that prints on gravure. That uses a totally different paper than the supplements, which have a 48-page body

The Complexities of Shipping & Handling Fees
June 1, 2002

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

Challenges of Multichannel Fulfillment
April 1, 2002

Richard Eaton, vice president, fulfillment services of Highlights for Children, and Tom Kirkham, senior consultant for ESYNC International, spoke to Catalog Success a few weeks before Highlights planned to go live with a new warehouse management system (WMS). Like many catalogers, Highlights for Children’s product-fulfillment operation contends with several distribution channels and myriad product types. Highlights’ in-house distribution center handles fulfillment for three divisions: - Highlights Catalog, a traditional children’s products catalog; - Highlights Jigsaw, an educational toy and book supplier offering products through home parties similar to the Tupperware model; and - a third division that sells business-to-business (b-to-b)

After the Hike: Mailing Strategies
April 1, 2002

This summer, catalogers will get hit with yet another postal rate increase. The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) plans to raise rates 7.7 percent on average, with a 6.2-percent increase for catalogers who presort mailings by carrier route. So, what’s a cataloger to do? Catalog Success asked three industry veterans for their strategies on saving costs following a postal hike. Alan Rimm-Kaufman, vice president of marketing at Crutchfield catalog Q: In what ways will you save money after the postal hike? A: On mailing catalogs, the two big things are to mail to better names and to have a more efficient book. It’s really