Charleston Gardens Testing Slim-Jim Catalogs

The recession has taught home and garden decor/gifts mailer about Charleston Gardens about the art of the sale catalog—as well as the art of the slim-jim-size book.

Charleston Gardens mailed its first slim-jim sale catalog during the U.S. Postal Service’s summer “mail sale” in 2009, says Leeda Marting, the merchant’s founder/president. The company just completed its third summer sale edition, using the slim-jim format “to differentiate the sale book from our regular catalogs.”

The total annual catalog circulation for Charleston Gardens is 2.1 million, with mailings every four weeks. The slim-jim sale book mails in July to Charleston Gardens’ house file—which totals 200,000—along with some limited prospecting.

“If you shopped on our website in July, you didn’t know a sale was going on,” Marting says. Customers had to enter the promotional code found in the summer sale catalog to get the discount, which could be applied to more than 2,800 products online.

“We had never had an across-the-board discount of 20% on everything we sell,” she says. “We had done e-mail blasts offering various discounts, but we learned that 20% off was necessary to move goods.”

Marting says her company’s summer slim-jim sale books have all been successful, but “we don’t want to become a discount retailer. So the sale will only be once a year in July.”

Charleston Gardens this year did its first-ever 32-page Halloween/Harvest small format edition. “This is the first time we’ve offered Halloween merchandise,” Marting notes. “Experimentation is key in this volatile retail environment.”

With no experience presenting such product, she says, “we wanted to keep our exposure low” with the slim-jim format. But so far, Marting adds, “the Halloween items are doing well.”

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