Amazon.com Test-Mails a Genuine Catalog

Seattle—Online superstore Amazon.com has long insisted that it had to plans to expand into print catalog. But in mid-April, the $2.89 billion general merchandiser test-mailed a 48-page book complete with a toll-free number and a paper order form.

Subtitled “Tools & Hardware, Outdoor Living, and Kitchen & Housewares,” the Amazon catalog includes 13 spreads selling woodworking tools, five spreads of kitchenware, and two spreads of health and personal care products. Rich Mathews, general manager of Amazon’s tools and hardware division, says the company is leveraging its subsidiary Tool Crib of the North, a tools catalog that Amazon acquired in October 1999.

The catalog mailed to an equal mix of Amazon buyers and Tool Crib customers, though Mathews won’t reveal the size of the mailing. Tool Crib’s North Dakota call center is handling the calls for the book, while Amazon’s Seattle facilities are handling fulfillment.

During the past holiday season, Amazon had mailed 10 million copies of a 24-page traffic driver featuring toys and gifts. That book did not feature a telephone order number or an order form, however. As for whether this test-mailing indicates that Amazon might branching out even further into print cataloging, Mathews says, “I wouldn’t read too much into it. We still consider ourselves an Internet company at heart. This doesn’t signal a dramatic swing for us.”

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