Two-Step Your Way into Canada

While U.S. mailboxes are chockfull of catalogs, such is not the case up north. Canada has just 35 titles that mail more than 5,000 catalogs a year, according to Patrick Bartlett, president of CanadaPost/Borderfree.

As a result, he says, the Canadian catalog market provides an opportunity for U.S. catalogers to grow their business. But you may need to tweak your prospecting methods before you make a go of it. For one thing, conventional wisdom holds that there simply aren’t enough names of proven Canadian mail order buyers to rent. What’s more, there’s the perceived hassle that comes from crossing the border in terms of customs and change in currency if you’re lucky enough to get the order.

In 2004, Merrimack, NH-based Brookstone, working with Canada Post/Borderfree, tested mailing a 12-page catalog to high-potential postal codes based on customer profiling analysis. The mini catalogs did not feature product but were designed more to introduce Brookstone and its gadgetry to Canadians, Bartlett says. Though Brookstone is located near the Canadian border it has no Canadian stores.

The mini catalogs generated more than 30,000 catalog requests for the company’s three titles—Brookstone, Hard-to-Find Tools, and Gardeners Eden. In May, Brookstone, again with the help of Canada Post/Borderfree, planned to send the requesters catalog offers with a special incentive to buy such as a dollar or percent off. “We wanted to give them a special offer to buy to get customers used to the ease of ordering through catalogs,” Bartlett says.