Universal Screen Arts, the parent company of the Art & Artifact, Signals, Wireless, and What on Earth gifts catalogs, announced on Jan. 8 that it had acquired books cataloger Bas Bleu. Terms of the deal, which closed Jan. 2, were not disclosed.
Founded 12 years ago by Eleanor Edmondson, Atlanta-based Bas Bleu mails about 5 million catalogs spread over five drops each year. Each issue features more than 200 titles, most of which are off-the-beaten-path books that rarely appear on best-seller lists and aren’t often available in mall stores.
Ken Ellingsen, president of Hudson, OH-based Universal Screen Arts, says that Edmondson and several other “key members” will remain with Bas Bleu, which has estimated sales of $12 million. Bas Bleu’s team will move to the Hudson offices during the first quarter.
Ellingsen says his company conducted a “fair amount of analysis, and we firmly believe this deal will be synergistic to our strategic plan. Bas Bleu is a company that has been very well run, and we think very highly of Eleanor and what she’s been able to accomplish.”
Fred Anderson, managing director of Anderson Direct, a South Orange, NJ-based consultancy and financial intermediary, who advised Bas Bleu during the transaction, echoes Ellingsen’s comments: He says Bas Bleu form a perfect “synergistic fit,” particularly with the Art & Artifact and Signals catalogs. “The demographics of the audiences are very, very similar.”
According to its data card, Bas Bleu has nearly 113,000 12-month buyers, 80% of whom are women, with an average age of 45 and an average household income of $65,000. Art & Artifact, which sells European and historically influenced decor and gifts, has nearly 43,000 12-month buyers, 80% of whom are women, with an average age of 46 and an average household income of $75,000. Signals, which sells a broader array of gifts, has nearly 434,000 12-month buyers, 72% of whom are women, with an average age of 46 and an average income of $62,000.
While Bas Bleu’s growth has been respectable, Anderson says, it was limited by facility constraints, such as its 10,000-sq.-ft. warehouse. Now, he says, Bas Bleu can be a part of Universal’s two-building shipping facility that encompasses 160,000 sq. ft. “All the physical constraints will be eliminated,” he says. “That alone will allow Bas Bleu to blossom.”
Ellingsen also alludes to Bas Bleu’s operational constraints. “It became clear this was an opportunity where we could grow the business utilizing the lists we had,” he says. “It became clear their demographics and our demographics on several of our titles meshed very nicely. We just knew there was a nice fit. Negotiations with them were wonderful. You couldn’t ask for a better deal.”
Ellingsen adds that he would continue to seek out additional properties to acquire that fit Universal Screen Arts’ strategic plan for growth.