Catalog Success April 2009
As e-commerce sales continue to climb, many catalog/multichannel marketers find themselves evaluating their current platforms to determine if it’s time to consider upgrading their Web sites. No doubt, it’s a large task. So proper planning is a crucial first step toward handling the project the right way.
This month, Terry Powers, founder/president of the ComputerGear catalog, recalls how a simple dare led to her career in the catalog business.
Lane Bryant: The women’s plus-size specialty apparel retailer has launched a new fashion retail catalog. The catalog was mailed to 3 million existing customers beginning in March. Lane Bryant, which isn’t connected with the former Lane Bryant catalog that Redcats USA (and before that, Brylane) used to operate, also unveiled a new toll-free number to handle orders and customer service inquiries, joining its retail stores and e-commerce site. The new catalog conveys a fashion-inspired look with a new attitude and bright colors.
Multichannel merchants are born multitaskers. They juggle the planning of multiple seasons and offers, industry macro and micro trends, numerous categories, SKUs, forecasts, vendors, inventory levels, management expectations, channels, customer feedback, product reviews, creative input, trips for sourcing, and product development processes. Their time — your time — is precious and must be used strategically.
Like most, I’ve seen my family wealth shrink. I’ve seen friends and colleagues get laid off. I’ve seen the stock market continue to be eaten up by the bears. I’m seeing the catalog/multichannel business, as we know it, dwindle, while the overall retail business is in tatters. I’ve seen the size of our magazine diminish as the vendor community is hurting big-time. And I’ve seen some of our competitors all but disappear.
Promotions have become a regular part of doing business and something the consumer expects, especially this year. More than half of all catalogs, in fact, offer some type of promo, and some 20 percent of them offer free shipping! But what really works?
The Catalog Success 200 presents a keen way of showing which catalog/multichannel marketers have been on the fast track. It tracks those that have rented out their housefiles in the past two years. There may be others out there, but without the numbers for the market to view, they can’t be charted. Companies highlighted in red are either B-to-B or hybrids.
PATIENT: Doc, last visit you gave me a prescription to help turn my sick catalog well again. This economy’s so bad, I think I need an additional prescription. You got anything? CATALOG DOCTOR: Last issue’s dose of catalog fundamentals to combat “lazy cataloger syndrome” boosted copy, eye flow and scannability. Now try this shot in the arm for pagination and product selection.
It must be a sign of the times when even a profitable catalog business can’t sell. That was Sportif USA CEO John Kirsch’s position when I caught up with him just before Thanksgiving. He’d just put the Waterfronts Nautical catalog on the selling block. And as he aimed to sell the 21-year-old nautical-themed apparel catalog started by his father, Kirsch reflected on some hard lessons.
As the USPS faces significant financial stress and mail volume continues to decline, catalogers must exercise vigilance on postal issues. While some of the changes the USPS is pursuing as a result of its unprecedented economic state are positive, others can do tremendous harm to catalogers and other