Bauer books don `leather’ jacket

Special varnish adds attention-grabbing texture to fall catalog cover

Leather is hot this season, and casual apparel marketer Eddie Bauer knows it. That’s why the company featured a leather jacket on the cover of its fall 2000 catalogs – and used a textured printing process to make the product look and feel like real leather.

In October, Eddie Bauer mailed 4.6 million copies – a large portion to its house file – of the fall book. To create a “leathery” look and feel, printer R.R. Donnelley & Sons developed what it calls a textured UV, or ultraviolet, varnish to apply to coated paper stock.

During the printing process, the UV varnish was applied only to pads that covered the “leather” portion of the cover image. This way, the product label, the zipper, and the “fall sale” tagline on the image retained a smooth glossy feel.

The printer then “froze” the varnish before it set, using ultraviolet lamps placed close to the solution. The special varnish does not run as fast as the typical varnishes that have a glossy sheen and flat texture, says Steve Miller, manufacturing manager of R.R. Donnelley Direct. The UV lamps further thickened the varnish so that instead of running off the page in a smooth finish, it dried to a leathery texture.

Neither Bauer nor Donnelley will discuss specific costs, except to say that the UV finish added a “modest” price increase to the job. The textured UV process did not change the actual press time. But Miller adds that the process requires the image to be sent to the printer up to several weeks ahead of schedule, depending on the intricacy of the silhouetting involved.

Adding zip to response Eddie Bauer’s leather cover follows last fall’s “special effect”: a wrap with a perforated zipper. Readers pulled the zipper tab to open two panels revealing the book’s cover. Harry Egler, Bauer’s divisional vice president of customer relationship management, says the zipper cover brought a “significant increase in response” and prompted the company to triple its fall circulation this year from last.

At press time, results were not yet available from the leather cover. But Egler says that “leather merchandise is doing spectacular” for Eddie Bauer. For certain, that’s partly because leather is the hottest apparel trend for fall, “but the cover has definitely helped,” he says.

Venerable lingerie marketer Frederick’s of Hollywood celebrated its 55th anniversary in style Oct. 17 with a fashion show in New York. Featuring models clad in bustiers, negligees, push-up bras, and thong panties, Frederick’s first-ever runway show – which was aptly titled “The Original Sin” – was designed to reflect the company’s longevity in lingerie. Said CEO Linda LoRe, “We’re here to reclaim our birthright” as the original purveyor of naughty nighties and scanty panties.

Frederick’s has more to celebrate than just its 55th anniversary, however. Catalog vice president Danielle Savin says the fall book is doing gangbusters. The company dropped 3.5 million catalogs in September; 65% to customers and 35% to prospects, “and response from the house file has been amazing – sales per book have doubled during last year,” she says. Moreover, “outside lists have brought the highest sales per book in seven years.” Across the board, the catalog’s average order has increased from $76 last year to $85 this year, Savin notes.

Founded in 1946 by Frederick Mellinger, Frederick’s of Hollywood operates 200 stores, the catalog, and a Website. The company, whose sales are estimated at $140 million, in July filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to free itself from debt incurred under a previous owner. As a result, the catalog did not mail for 90 days, which may have created pent-up customer demand that helped boost fall response.

But Savin says, “being out of the mail for that 90-day period also gave us more time to work on the book,” which was the first catalog the company designed inhouse. “I think we had the time to get it right-the right creative, the right mail date, and the right merchandise.”

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