ACC: The Highlight Reel

Jul 01, 2003 9:30 PM  By

As I write this, I’m still catching my breath from the 20th Annual Catalog Conference. If you were there as well, you know what a hectic, jam-packed three days it was. And if you weren’t there, tsk tsk! (Do try to make next year’s show, May 3-5 in Chicago.)

Now that I’ve finally had time to decipher the notes that I took throughout the conference, I’d like to share some of what I considered highlights:

  • Favorite quote: During the Power Forum, panelist Steve Lightman, president/CEO of multititle mailer Crosstown Traders (Arizona Mail Order, Figi’s) said that catalogers are now viewing their Websites “the way they used to think of their 800-numbers, as a part of the cost of doing business.”

  • Favorite potential business opportunity: Another Power Forum panelist, School Specialty president/CEO Dave Vander Zanden, floated China as a market waiting to be exploited. Yes, there are numerous deterrents — difficulty in sourcing names, an unbelievably complex language, the sheer vastness of the country. But you can’t deny that China has a huge population, and the upper- and middle-class urbanites there can’t get enough of Western brands as diverse as Burberry and the Hard Rock Café. And as Vander Zanden noted, the improvement in transportation and roadways that will result from the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing will only make it easier for Westerners to enter the market.

  • Favorite giveaway: Richard Thalheimer, CEO/founder of Sharper Image and one of the conference’s keynote speakers, gave $20 gift certificates to attendees of his session. We know of at least one attendee who used his certificate before the conference had even ended, to buy one of the hot sellers Thalheimer discussed during his speech — a nose-hair trimmer, which Thalheimer described as “a sexy product.”

  • Favorite example of a silver lining behind a cloud: Allen Abbott, senior vice president of marketing for menswear cataloger Paul Fredrick, mentioned that his company was performing well so far this year: “We’re benefiting from people being nervous about the economy.” Consumers who have been laid off are likely sprucing up their interview suits, while those trying to hold on to their jobs are motivated to maintain a professional look, he said.

  • Favorite lesson: That if a co-worker accidentally leaves a wallet in a taxi, there are honest cabdrivers out there who will return it to the owner.