Phil Minix

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.

The catalog industry is somewhat unique in that it has built itself on collaboration. Whether by plan or by accident, the strategy of renting one anothers’ customer lists has helped — and continues to assist — the industry to grow. But most importantly, this practice helped to build larger universes of good quality, mail-order buyers who became responsive to the convenience of shopping from their homes. A catalog company won’t prosper in the long term if it’s unable to add new customers to its file. Simply stated: Growth is essential to success. You grow by getting more sales from your existing customers and

If you work among the creative staff at your catalog company, you may hear the following discussion from time to time: Merchant: “I need this item to be pictured a little smaller for it to pay for itself.” Art director: “If we just cut the copy, we probably can make the picture a little bigger and still take up less total space. People don’t read anyway.” Copywriter: “I’ve already cut the copy three times, and now there’s barely enough room to give even the product dimensions and SKU number.” Many people say nobody reads anymore, so you might as well show bigger pictures

To produce profits, you first must scrutinize overhead expenses. And since payroll often accounts for most overhead expenses, each staff position within your catalog must be justified and optimized. With current trends focused on keeping employment as flat as possible, it may be tempting to either eliminate a merchandise manager’s position or to not add one as your company grows. But I argue that this should be one of the key positions in your company. Remember, you are, after all, a merchant. Your catalog exists to sell products. All the rest of the things you need to do are in support of your

A fashion merchant, a hunting catalog and a women’s athletic apparel catalog took the first, second and third spots in this year’s Top 200, a ranking of catalogs by recent housefile-growth rates. We congratulate the catalog officials at Kenneth Cole New York, Legendary Whitetails, Title Nine Sports and all of the other merchants who made the Catalog Success Top 200 for their outstanding ability to grow their customer lists even during the tough economic times of the past several months. What do all of these catalogers have in common? No doubt a razor sharp prospecting plan, an eye-popping merchandise mix and exceptional

In times when response rates suffer and average order values decline, earning a profit in cataloging can be more of a challenge than normal. In this environment, your expenses (e.g., marketing costs, overhead, fulfillment) become a larger percentage of sales, thus leaving few, if any, percentage points left for profit. Although there are many things you can do to check overhead expenses and keep marketing costs at a minimum, there’s one line on your profit and loss statement that can have the biggest impact on your ability to make money: cost of goods sold (COGS). Before taking the steps to improve your

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