Design Toscano

Spanning the Globe
February 1, 2008

HOW DID YOU BREAK INTO THE CATALOG BUSINESS: Two words: world travel. Working as a business consultant and traveling all over the U.S. in the 1980s, Stopka earned plenty of frequent flyer miles to take annual vacations in Europe, where he fell in love with European culture. “I told my wife [Design Toscano co-owner Marilyn Stopka] I could market European exotic products to the American public,” Stopka says. By sourcing through a friend in the statuary business, Stopka began selling his products through a new catalog. “We took its catalog, replaced the cover, put a price sheet in and advertised in the back of

A Chat With February’s Profile, Mike Stopka, President/Owner of Design Toscano
February 1, 2008

Catalog Success: How did you break into the catalog business? Mike Stopka: It’s kind of a romantic story. Now we’re going back almost 20 years. Professionally I was a consultant and I traveled all over the United States in the 80’s, when I was in my 20’s and early 30’s — working in financial institutions, doing feasibility studies. Very strong on the spread-sheet skills. With that said, with all that travel I had free tickets, so we used to go to Europe every year. This is when the dollar was strong. It was like cheaper than going to vacation in Wisconsin for an Illinois

About Design Toscano
February 1, 2008

Catalog established: 1990 Headquarters: Elk Grove Village, Ill. Merchandise: Gifts, garden and home furnishings and decor Customer demographics: Consumers age 35-55, middle to upper income # of SKUs: 3,500 on the Web site, nearly 350 in the catalog # of employees: More than 100 full- and part-time Circulation: 14 million # of drops per year: Design Toscano: 13; Basil Street Gallery: 4 12-month housefile: 180,000

Five Ways to Make List Selects Work Harder for You
October 1, 2005

“List universes have shrunk, no doubt about it. And the economic climate is tougher than it has been in years for many catalogers, especially smaller niche titles like Design Toscano,” says Erik Martinez, the catalog’s vice president of marketing and information technology. So for Design Toscano, a home furnishings cataloger based near Chicago, looking for prospect lists with similar affinities is like looking for a needle in the proverbial haystack. Where have all the good prospect lists gone? “Some catalogs went under, while others responded to the economic climate by expanding into broader merchandise offerings,” Martinez notes. “That doesn’t help us, because

Using Alternative Media to Build a List
October 1, 1999

The genesis of a catalog can follow several creative paths. Some catalogs begin as concepts, springing forth full-grown from an entrepreneur’s forehead. Some spin off from retail stores or other catalogs. Others grow organically, often from space ads or a single product offering. Design Toscano took the last approach. For founder Michael Stopka, “alternative media” isn’t really alternative at all; it’s part of a core strategy for finding prospects for a niche market and converting them into loyal buyers. Since placing its first space ad in 1990, Design Toscano has grown its revenues to $25 million per year, its house file of buyers