Fingerhut finds its way to Today’s Home

General merchandise cataloger Fingerhut has seen its share of ups and downs since being sold in 1999 to Federated Department Stores: It was shut down in January 2002, acquired by several investors in July 2002, and resumed mailing in November of that year. In the years since, Fingerhut has quietly but steadily rebuilt its business, to the point that it has mailed its first spin-off specialty title under its current ownership.

In September the Minnetonka, MN-based marketer introduced Today’s Home, a 96-page, 8″ × 10″ home furnishings and housewares catalog. The book mailed to 500,000 customers and prospects, with the latter accounting for about 20% of the circulation.

Fingerhut waited until it had a large-enough customer base to justify the spin-off, says Bob Safford, chief marketing officer. “Our size is [now] at a point where we’re able to do specialty books,” he says. According to its datacard Fingerhut has a house file of more than 1,194,000 names, including more than 931,000 12-month buyers.

Consumer electronics is Fingerhut’s top merchandise category in terms of sales dollars, says Safford, because of its higher price points. But more Fingerhut customers buy home furnishings, housewares, and other domestic products. Today’s Home gives Fingerhut the opportunity to showcase the merchandise in a new creative presentation that includes more dramatic layouts with hero spreads and more color, explains John Damrow, the company’s executive vice president of merchandising. The thinking was that with a different creative look, this product line “might be more successful than in the general merchandise catalog,” says director of marketing John Schlundt.

What’s more, the new catalog enables Fingerhut to introduce more new home products. About 35%-40% of the items in Today’s Home are new, compared with about 20% in each edition of the general merchandise catalog. Products include a Dyson vacuum cleaner for $549.99, a 12-piece illuminated Nativity scene for $139.99, a hand-carved trunk for $149.99, and a pot rack for $49.99.

Although Safford would not release specific figures, he says response to the Today’s Home title has been close to projections, with the average order value exceeding expectations. Fingerhut plans to mail the catalog four times a year, with two drops each in the spring and fall. And as of press time, a second specialty book — a gifts catalog — was set to mail in November.

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