Anthrax Anxiety Leads Consumers to Survivalist Catalog

Stamford, CT–A favorite catalog of survivalists, Brigade Quartermasters has seen demand for its products soar since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the subsequent anthrax outbreaks. “Starting Sept. 11 or the day after we immediately saw an increase in sales of our gas masks,” says Wendy Abney, director of marketing for the Kennesaw, GA-based cataloger/retailer of safety-preparedness products. “We’ve sold several hundred gas masks since Sept. 11-more than we have sold in the last two or three years.”

In a typical month, the cataloger usually sells two or three gas masks, primarily to business travelers concerned about smoke inhalation in a plane accident, Abney says. And many of those gas mask customers are Japanese. (About 10% of Brigade Quartermasters’ sales are, in fact, international.) But now gas masks, which the company sources from a variety of companies, are on backorder.

Brigade Quartermasters has also sold out of “much of the same products that were sold in preparation for Y2K,” Abney says. “The survival products, such as our adventure medical kits and traveler’s medical kits that have trauma materials, rehydration sales, and infectious control products, have sold out.”

In addition to some of its products, the cataloger has seen a run on its catalog. “At one point I think we had roughly 11,000 [requesters] waiting to receive the catalog since Sept. 11,” Abney says. “We ran out of books and went back to press.” The cataloger, which mails between 2 million and 4 million catalogs annually, issued a special 48-page catalog to its postattack requesters rather than reprint its usual 84-page book. Those requesters will also receive the latest edition of the company’s 84-page catalog, which dropped the first week of November.

Abney credits Web search engines, as well recent attention from local press, to the surge in sales and catalog requests. Its Website had about 500,000 unique visitors in October, compared with two-thirds of that the previous month. “People are searching for keywords such as ‘gas masks’ and ‘survival kits,’ and they’re being directed to our site,” Abney says. So many new visitors have found the site that it crashed once. Brigade Quartermasters has moved its Website hosting to another company with increased server space and a higher bandwidth.

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