October 2008 Issue


A Chat With October’s Profile, Peter Cobb, co-founder/senior vice president, eBags

Catalog Success: Where’s your company headquartered? Peter Cobb: Denver, Colorado. Greenwood Village, technically. CS: What are your catalog/company customer demographics? PC: We sell 520 brands of products, everything from luggage to backpacks to handbags to laptop cases. Five hundred and twenty brands, 36,000 bags. So, there’s such a wide variety. And in a day we’ll have 100,000 visitors to our site. I’m saying all this because it’s hard to pinpoint. It’s about 70 percent women; moderate to upper income — household income around $82,000; average age, and I hate using averages because we have retirees buying luggage for retirement and kids buying backpacks

Audio: A Chat With October’s Profile, Peter Cobb, co-founder/senior vice president, eBags

Click here to listen to our full interview with October’s Profile, Peter Cobb, co-founder/senior vice president, eBags.

Catalog Doctor: More Than a Look-Alike

PATIENT: My catalog’s in a fairly crowded market. All my competitors look similar and carry many similar products. Is that the best way to do it? Will I sell more being more like the competition, or should I work to be really different? CATALOG DOCTOR: Being different is better for your catalog, but there are some wrinkles, too. Learn the signs and symptoms of being too much like your competitors. Do your customers get you mixed up with your competitors? If so, you’re losing out on building customer loyalty and higher response. Sit back, let me tell you a story. Five

Cataloger Spotlight: Cataloger Discovers the Joy of Less Fun

For more than a year, Susan Landay and her staff at Trainers Warehouse discussed ways to strengthen the company’s brand. The 17-year-old catalog marketer of such training and teaching aids as buzzers, certificate frames, fidget toys, flip charts, easels and others was profitable, but Landay felt the company wasn’t realizing its full potential. “We realized our products appealed to more than just those who were buying from us,” says Landay, the Natick, Mass.-based company’s president. “We wanted to deepen our penetration into our niche and expand our appeal.” Last February, after some outside consultation, Trainers Warehouse launched a rebranding campaign. Trainers Warehouse learned

Creative Cut: PFI = Perfect for Insiders

Products For Industry (PFI) is a wholesaler, and the PFI catalog is offered to authorized distributors who can customize the front cover with their company names. This gives the distributors access to 750 manufacturers, in-stock products and a professionally designed catalog to build their individual businesses. It’s a nice way for distributors to have a professional-looking catalog without all the startup costs needed to create and produce a 292-page book like this one. Covers Immediately communicating who you are and what you sell is a primary role of the front cover. PFI quickly does this with a front cover masthead and visual representations of

E-Commerce Insights: 5 Steps to the Perfect Checkout

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? How does the nonstick material stick to the bottom of the pan? Why do we park on a driveway and drive on a parkway? Life has many mysteries. Building a perfect checkout system is not one of them. Users Know Best Over the past decade, Internet users have repeatedly told us what works best in checkouts. Unfortunately, many companies ignore the customers’ sage advice — which is proven by sales and conversion in the cart — and recreate the wheel. This is nothing short of a travesty, and if you’re smart, or at least hungry for

Get Squinched!

For many years, square-inch analysis was delegated to the newest member in a catalog marketing department and was almost considered a rite of initiation. Assigning this relatively tedious task to the newbie provided the added benefit of making sure every member of the department understood and appreciated square-inch analysis. Square-inch — aka “squinch” — analysis is a method for determining the relationship between the space allocated to the sale of a product or set of products and the sales and/or profits stemming from their appearance in that space. Quite simply, you compare the sales and profits to the cost of the space the

Harry & David Gets Hungrier

“Once we divested ourselves of Jackson & Perkins, we turned our attention to finding businesses that would leverage our infrastructure and expertise.” That’s how Bill Williams, president/CEO of Harry & David, neatly sums up the Medford, Ore.-based food marketer’s array of sale and acquisition activity over the past 18 months. “And that naturally took us to food and gift food businesses.” Indeed, it’s been a rapid transformation for this marketer and grower of fruit, cakes and other food gifts. • April 2007: Sold its interest in the horticulture multichannel business, Jackson & Perkins. • January 2008: Acquired Wolferman’s, a cataloger known for its

Legal Matters: Beneath Those Refund and Return Policies

Catalogs and Web sites provide customers with more than just product displays, merchandise descriptions and purchase information. They generally include a number of legal disclosures as well. Frequently overlooked, however, is an explanation of the retailer’s refund and return policy. Such a disclosure should be included, both as a matter of legal compliance and industry best practice. State Disclosure Laws Approximately one-third of states have enacted legislation related to retail sales return policies. A few states have disclosure laws specifically targeted toward certain types of direct marketers. • In California, a vendor conducting business through the Internet or other electronic means must

Principles of Catalog Shopping for Retailers, Part 1 of 2

Many retailers are finding catalogs to be an important adjunct to their retail businesses. They realize that once they’ve obtained customers, the catalog mailing is an effective way to bind those customers to their brands and expand awareness of their products. In the first of a two-part series targeted at multichannel merchants who have significant retail businesses, below are five of the 10 key principles to augment your retail/multichannel program with catalogs and the Web. 1. Exploit the phenomenon of multichannel lift. Mailing a catalog delivers sales in its own right while increasing the value of customers who originate in the store or on

Profile of Success: It’s in the Bag

WHAT GOT HIM HERE: A life-altering experience. Eleven years ago at the age of 37, Peter Cobb was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma and was given a 25 percent chance to live, maybe, three more years. Needless to say, the doctors were wrong. But while he was fighting to beat this form of cancer, he decided to make a new mark in life. Cobb had been a brand manager for Samsonite. At the time, he felt that was a perfectly fine career path. But after his brush with death, he wanted more from life. “I said, ‘If I make it beyond this, I’m going to

Quarterly Catalog Success (Now All About ROI) Latest Trends Report on Mailing and Marketing Practices (October 2008)

In this, our fifth Catalog Success Latest Trends Report, we’ve come full circle. We’re celebrating the first anniversary of our groundbreaking quarterly surveys of your industry. Unlike the previous surveys, which focused on key multichannel issues, management and creative, this go-round returns to the focus of last October’s survey: mailing and marketing practices. And that gives you the opportunity to compare results from last October’s survey to see how your strategies have changed over the past 12 months. Simply look for the percentages in parenthesis that follow each result. As with our previous surveys, this is a joint venture with the La Crosse, Wis.-based

Strategy: Master the Analytics of Page Count

When I taught direct marketing at Indiana University, I told my students to write “merchandising” if they didn’t know the answer to a question so they could receive 50 percent credit. I wanted these second-year MBA students to know the importance of merchandising. But product selection and circulation determine the success of any catalog/Internet business. And knowing how many pages to circulate is my topic this month. Specifically, I’ll explore the following: • What basic criteria determine proper page count? • What are the economics of adding pages? • How can adding pages be a successful strategy in these difficult economic times?

The Editor’s Take: A Multifaceted Transition

The more I examine the whole catalog-to-multichannel transition, the more I realize how very much it remains a work in progress for both B-to-C and B-to-B catalogers. There are still plenty more phases ahead. Last month, this was certainly top-of-mind when we held a free Catalog Success webinar called The Coordinated Sell - Redefined for 2009 & Beyond. Our Strategy columnist Stephen R. Lett and Creative Irish Gifts catalog Vice President Rob O’Connor both gave excellent presentations. If you missed it, I invite you to go to our Web site and click on the “Webinars” tab toward the top of our homepage for a

This Data’s Got Game

Understanding customers and their needs and wants is the primary driver of successful multichannel businesses. This industry hallmark is one of the reasons we’ve successfully gained wallet share over the past 30 years. Yet how many great research projects end up collecting dust in some filing cabinet? While database research can be eminently useful in understanding the composition of a database and the purchase behavior of customers, it doesn’t provide the complete and nuanced knowledge required for developing successful strategic change. Insightful primary customer research adds tremendous knowledge, even to those companies with sophisticated databases, and artfully created primary research informs a company’s