March 2007 Issue


A Chat with Arnie Zaslow, executive vice president, ATD American Co.

© Profile of Success, Catalog Success magazine, March 2007 Interview by Matt Griffin Catalog Success: When was the catalog established? Arnie Zaslow: ATD has been around since 1931. We celebrated our 75th anniversary last year. That’s not how long the catalog has been around though. We published the first catalog in 1957. The great thing about that is that last year we were in business for 75 years, and this year we celebrate the 50th anniversary of our catalog. CS: What is your primary merchandise? AZ: Institutional furniture and equipment for the business, education, and correctional markets. I think our biggest single

B-to-B Cataloging: Cast a Powerful Net

Finding and retaining good employees tops the list of major concerns for catalogers. Often catalog companies are located in less populated areas, where finding qualified staff is a challenge. If you’re located in a larger city, you face the challenge of losing your trained staff to other companies. Salary, benefits and work environment are important for employees. But an overlooked aspect of employee retention is brand. Brand not only helps attract and retain customers, but it’s also essential for attracting and retaining good employees. A good gauge of whether customers will want to shop at your company is whether employees want to work there.

B-to-B Cataloging: Who’s Buying? Who’s Working?

A crucial point of your brand inventory is to take a look at the most important element of your business: your customers. Who are your customers and why do they buy from you? Why do your customers identify with your company? Are your customers high end, wanting the best? Are they unpretentious with solid reputations? Your customers are identifying with your company. Discover more about them, and you’ll discover more about where your business should focus its efforts. Next ask, who are your employees? Are they highly trained wanting to continue their professional development? Are they innovators looking for new ideas to improve the company?

Catalog Success 200

Sur La Table 163,680 56,295 191 $85 cookware Mokrynskidirect 12/06 9/05 139,829 51,031 174 $115 pet supplies List Locators 9/06 5/05 & Managers Knit Picks 73,502 27,347 169 $60 crafts Walter Karl 6/06 6/05 Cutter & Buck 70,938 30,555 132 $147 men’s apparel Mokrynskidirect 1/07 1/06 Kinsman Co. 27,090 12,695 113 $83 gardening supplies D-J Associates 12/06 9/05 Fannie May Confections 72,173 34,794 107 $36 candy, chocolates Millard Group 11/06 10/05 Leichtung Workshops 20,312 9,958 104 $52 woodworking tools Names & 9/06 7/05 Addresses Orion Telescopes 33,445 16,849 99 $175 telescopes Millard Group and Binoculars 7/06 7/05 Time for Me 141,411 71,958 97 $95 women’s apparel Mokrynskidirect 1/07 10/05 Siegel Display Products 33,569 17,474 92 $300 promotional display products Direct Media 10/06 10/05 Smith & Hawken 140,722 74,971 88 $125 gardening supplies Belardi/Ostroy ALC 11/06 10/05 Redding Medical 13,689 7,642 79 $95 nursing supplies Fasano and 12/06 8/05 Associates Penn Herb Co. Ltd. 26,459 14,837 78 $54 natural remedies Walter Karl 4/06 5/05 MidWest Edwin Watts Golf 328,416 185,448 77 $250 golf equipment Venture Direct 8/06 5/05 Worldwide Staples 3,843,101 2,183,681 76 $250 office products Direct Media 12/06 11/05 Sporty’s Men’s Collection 12,926 7,368 75.4 N/A men’s recreational products Millard Group 1/07 5/05 New England Business 1,114,626 636,766 75 $120 office products MeritDirect Service (NEBS) 12/06 9/05

Creative Cut: The Organized Bird Gets the Customer

The Duncraft name is synonymous with amazing products for bird enthusiasts. It already does a good job but, like many catalogers, taking a step from good to great can lead to better presentation and increased sales. Front Cover There’s very little that can compete with a dramatic and emotionally relevant front cover. Duncraft understands this and knows its customers will be drawn in by the beautiful wildlife bird shot. The overall composition is appealing, featuring a strong and prominent masthead and a supportive tagline. In this case, the tagline is above the logo instead of below, where it would be expected. Nevertheless, it works, because the

E-mail Applied: The Time is Right for E-mail Prospecting

Does the thought of e-mail prospecting send shivers up your spine? Have you deliberately stayed away from even thinking about a test? It’s time for you to rethink e-mail for lead and sales generation. I want you to consider why you should add this technique to your marketing arsenal. Why E-mail Prospecting? Direct mail prospecting is a central part of your marketing plan. Catalogers carefully test and expand on lists that hold promise. And e-mail lists are showing more promise all the time. Their appeal lies in their ability to expand your online marketing efforts. Your Web site now is an integrated part of your

Editor’s Take: Charts, Change and a Little Controversy

One of the reasons any veteran in his or her field is brought in to manage an operation is to inject some fresh ideas, come up with some money-making business initiatives and perhaps even spark a little controversy in the process. As I approach my first anniversary with Catalog Success, I’ve instituted some positive change, some new features and we have some other initiatives that you’ll find out about later in the year. Wait! Don’t go to sleep! I’m not looking to give myself a happy anniversary pat on the back (yawn!). I’m talking about some of the previous initiatives here that I’ve inherited, namely

Industry Eye: People on the Move, Catalogers’ Updates

Catalogers’ Updates Acquisitions Multichannel apparel and home products merchant Appleseed’s, a portfolio company of private equity firm Golden Gate capital, acquired in January apparel and home goods cataloger Blair Corp. The deal, expected to close later this spring, is valued at $173.6 million. Musician’s Friend catalog, a subsidiary of Guitar Center, in February acquired multititle musical instrument merchant The Woodwind and Brasswind. The $29.9 million transaction has been approved following a stalled purchase attempt in November. Finance Private equity firm Parallel Investment Part-ners in January completed the recapitalization of multichannel outdoor apparel and equipment merchant Moosejaw Mountaineering and Backcountry Travel. Furthermore … Multititle general merchandise cataloger Miles Kimball Co. will


Most catalogers these days sell via two or three channels. It’s how they use each channel that determines their success. “The Web made mail order accessible to many, who didn’t need to invest in a big catalog infrastructure,” says Susan McIntyre, president of Portland, Ore.-based catalog consultancy McIntyre Direct. But the resulting glut of Internet pure plays and new catalogers makes standing out from the crowd tougher. Below are McIntyre’s directives for making your catalog stand out. 1. Keep service consistent across channels. Effective multichannel marketing includes both the capability to take orders from multiple channels and the ability to provide the

Privacy Matters: Co-op Databases and Consumer Privacy

One of the important parts of my job, leading the Direct Marketing Association’s ethics and consumer affairs activities, is hearing reactions to the practices of individual companies — and the direct marketing community in general — directly from consumers. These real world anecdotes allow us at the DMA to identify emerging concerns and issues that we can help you address and solve. Lately we’ve noticed a new trend that most catalogers need to address: how consumers exercise their privacy choices in a world of co-op databases. The usual scenario: Someone calls a company and asks to be removed from its mailing list,

Profile of Success: An Established Institution

BACKGROUND: Officially, Arnie Zaslow has worked for ATD-American Co. since he was 16; that’s 60 years, according to the plaque recently mounted in his office. But Zaslow is fond of saying he was born into the business, as his father founded the institutional and government supplies company right about the time his youngest son entered the world. Now Zaslow runs the business with his two older brothers. BIGGEST CAREER CHALLENGES: • Securing better margins: For about the first 25 years the company existed, it secured business through competitive bids. “Those were so competitive, the product markups were infinitesimally small,” Zaslow recalls.

Recycled Knowledge

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

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

Setting Your Goal: A Roadmap to Success

Whether you’re a large cataloger, a nonprofit or a small family-owned business, your catalog will have sales goals to achieve. The tools and methodology used may differ, but the steps necessary during the planning process don’t. The basic roadmap to success: 1. Review past product sales history of units sold, gross profit and gross margin to identify products worth selling again. 2. Review list performance and sales by customer segment to identify lists worth repeating and list categories or segments worth testing or expanding. 3. Determine the availability of inventory. 4. Investigate the availability of additional lists, list categories or segments that match your

Special Report: The Art and Science of Catalog Management

Two essential ingredients of any successful catalog business — marketing and merchandising — have artistic elements where experience, creativity and intuition count more than numbers and cold hard facts. But they also have numeric benchmarks that if ignored, can spell disaster for customer acquisition, customer retention and brand integrity. Marketing and merchandising skill sets and viewpoints are vital, and impact the bottom line. When they’re in sync with each other, the resulting catalog invariably is better than either can deliver on its own. Interaction between the two disciplines is a two-way street, rather than a linear path. There are several ways to

Strategy: Maintaining a Relational vs. Flat File Marketing Database

A housefile, or customer list, is a valuable marketing tool if you maintain it properly. It enables more targeted marketing; facilitates various analyses; and generates incremental income from renting and/or exchanging names with other reputable mailers. When talking about building and maintaining a customer housefile, there are two issues you need to address: 1) collecting data into your order entry system, and 2) extracting relevant subsets of this data to build a marketing database. If you circulate multiple catalog titles or have a large file of records for which you’d like to see transactional history and do complex queries, maintaining a relational database

The Catalog Success 200

A cataloger’s lifeblood is its housefile. One can gauge most companies’ well-being by their sales, profit figures or EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization). But in the catalog business, most people want to know how viable their housefile growth is; or, in simple terms, how many new customers other catalogers are adding. That’s where the Catalog Success 200 comes in. Here follows our fifth-annual exclusive ranking of U.S.-based catalogers with the speediest recent housefile growth rates. This is your guide to which companies lined their pockets with the most new customers in 2006 vs. 2005. And ranking catalogers by this metric provides

The Sum of Crutchfield’s Parts

New product selections for consumer electronics cataloger Crutchfield are driven by its merchandising staff, which works closely with manufacturers. Vice President of Merchandising Rick Souder and the merchandisers thrive on launching new products. Since Crutchfield deals in high-tech consumer electronics, its merchandisers are organized by product groups to gain an in-depth familiarity with a particular product category, such as televisions or car stereos. Crutchfield’s marketing department steps in to determine if these new products will appeal to its customers, and if so, how and when this product information will be communicated. “The marketing challenge is to get the word out about your products in

You’re Hıred!

As an executive recruiter, there was a time not too many years ago when a CEO of a direct marketing firm would call my office, and the conversation would go something like this: CEO: “Hello, I’d like to talk with you about a search.” Recruiter: “You bet. How can I help you?” CEO: “I am looking for a vice president of direct marketing.” Recruiter: “OK. What key skills are you looking for?” CEO: “I want someone who really knows direct mail.” Recruiter: “Are you interested in candidates who have some exposure to this new channel they call e-commerce?” CEO: “Not really. Our customers have