ACQUISITIONS: Amazon gets Back to Basics

Online superstore has waded a bit deeper into the print catalog pool. On Nov. 30 it acquired Back to Basics, a Herndon, VA-based cataloger of classic toys, for an undisclosed sum. Just weeks earlier, on Nov. 9, the $610 million Amazon bought the catalog division of Grand Forks, ND-based tools marketer Tool Crib of the North. That company’s year-old online catalog has since been folded into Amazon’s Website.

According to Amazon spokesman Bill Curry, the founders of Back to Basics, Eric and Diane Garfinkel, will continue to run the print catalog. “The staff at Back to Basics are experts about printing catalogs, so they will continue to handle that aspect of the business,” he says.

Seattle-based Amazon’s rationale for the Back to Basics acquisition, Curry says, was the same as for its purchase of Tool Crib: adding to its product line. But Seema Williams, consumer e-commerce research analyst for Cambridge, MA-based Forrester Research, believes that Amazon also acquired the two print catalogs for their house files. (Back to Basics has 135,274 12-month buyers; Tool Crib of the North has a 12-month buyer file of 107,724 names.)

“The catalogs have customer bases that are valuable to Amazon,” Williams says. “Amazon can contact them via straightforward direct mail and traffic drivers such as discount incentives. It would be a way for Amazon to reach customers when they’re not online.”

As to whether more print acquisitions are in the works, Curry says that Amazon does not comment on speculative planning. But clearly Amazon’s expansion into print catalogs doesn’t mean it has lost its taste for online acquisitions. On Dec. 1, the company bought a 16.6% stake in, a Houston-based online cataloger of luxury goods. Amazon paid $10 million for its share in Ashford and will feature the marketer in its promotions, as well as provide a link on the Amazon home page.

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