Russell’s for Men Gets a Circ Boost

In these shaky economic times, many catalogers are cutting back on the frequency of their mailings. Not so $12 million A.G. Russell. The Lowell, AR-based mailer, best known for its eponymous knives catalog, has increased the frequency of its Russell’s for Men gifts title from two annual drops to six.

“I still think we’ll see some growth even if the economy doesn’t improve,” says president Goldie Russell. Indeed, the spring edition, which dropped in April, exceeded expectations by a third, she says.

The six-year-old catalog, which sells leather goods, sunglasses, watches, writing implements, and other accoutrements for men, will have two 600,000-name mailings and four 150,000-name mailings next year. For the larger mailings, about 75% of the names will come from co-op databases and lists. All told, Russell expects to mail 50%-70% more copies of the catalog in 2004 than in 2003.

Accompanying the increase in frequency will be an increased page count. Russell’s for Men went up eight pages, to 48, this past October. Russell says that the catalog will likely gain another 8-16 pages before the end of next year.

Web enhancements

While A.G. Russell is beefing up the circulation and page counts of the Russell’s for Men book; it also has major changes in store for the title’s Website. “We’re in the process of totally redesigning the Website,” Russell says, focusing improvements on search-engine and shopping-cart technology. Currently the site doesn’t enable customers to easily search for particular items or brands. Rather, Web shoppers have to wade through broad product categories.

Russell’s for Men also plans to add a “wish list” to its Website that allows customers to register for items the way that engaged couples register for wedding gifts. A gift registry for men? Russell says that many customers visit the site after their birthdays or holidays to get themselves the gift they wanted but did not receive.

As for retail, A.G. Russell has no plans to expand beyond its one store in Lowell. The store, whose sales are up 200% from last year, has a unique advantage: It is located near the headquarters of retail giant Wal-Mart.

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