Boden books make the news

Oct 01, 2007 9:30 PM  By

U.K.-based Boden is continuing its own British invasion on the U.S. catalog market. The apparel merchant, which has been mailing into the States since 2002, last month inserted a prospecting catalog in two major newspapers.

Boden distributed between 500,000 and 1 million copies of a 62-page catalog inside the Sept. 9 issue of the The New York Times and The Washington Post. Boden frequently inserts catalogs in newspapers in the U.K., primarily because the postage is so high for British mailers, according to Justin Metcalf, president of Boden USA.“In the U.K. mailing catalogs inside newspapers is fairly standard,” Metcalf says.

Fellow British mailer shirt maker Charles Tyrwhitt, which has been marketing in the U.S. for seven years, has been inserting catalogs in newspapers here since 2002. And some U.S. catalogers, such as Ross-Simons and REI, have taken advantage of inserting catalogs in newspapers. But the practice is not as common here.

This was Boden’s first crack at it in the U.S. market, Metcalf notes, “and I’m sure there are things we didn’t do well, and we made some mistakes.”

Although he would not provide specific costs, Metcalf says that newspaper inserts are not cheap. What’s more, marketing via the newspaper can be risky if you run promotions to entice people to order.

For instance, the catalog inserted into The New York Times included a dot whack promoting a 10% discount to the paper’s readers. While the book may be aimed at prospects, “your buyers also see it,” Metcalf explains. “And you have to be careful with that. You have to take care of your customers.”

Also, newspapers may help put your book in front of desirable prospects, but you don’t know if readers are direct shoppers. Mailing to known catalog buyers will yield a stronger response than targeting unproven prospects.

Still, Metcalf expects that results from distributing catalogs via newspapers will outweigh the downsides, as the campaign would be deemed a success at breakeven. “We’ll put a toe in the water and see how it goes. This is an extremely successful vehicle for us in the U.K.” he says.

A local operation Boden got its feet wet in the U.S. by launching the U.S. version of its Mini Boden children’s clothing catalog in October 2002. The company’s U.S. direct sales are projected to top $100 million next year.

Boden will likely find it easier to expand in the U.S. after January. That’s when the merchant is opening a distribution facility/call center in Scranton, PA. The company outsources a contact center here, but it has been fulfilling U.S. orders from its U.K. facility.

According to chief operating officer Ben Dreyer, Boden wanted a facility in the Northeast, rather than, say, the West Coast, to be as close to the U.K. as possible. (For more on Boden’s U.S. DC, see the cover story “Prime real estate.”