Bridge City Tool Works’ fall ’99 edition puts niche hardware in a glamorous light. As one judge commented, “The catalog can sell you a doorknob because it makes the doorknob look so good.”
Creative design is clearly the catalog’s strongest selling point. A muted, “natural” color scheme, featuring a cream background with blue and black type, and photographs with soft, faded edges bring out the rich wood tones seen in most of the catalog’s merchandise. “The book’s look and feel builds and establishes a brand,” said a judge. “It shows that `nonglamourous’ items can be visually appealing.” But although many judges enthused over the romantic appeal of the creative, several described the design throughout as “too artsy” or “fuzzy.”
The catalog’s detailed copy also elicited mixed reviews. Some judges appreciated the in-depth descriptions and specifications of each item. Said one judge, “Outstanding copy can build credibility.” Testimonials, such as “I don’t know how you folks keep coming up with these tool designs…Your trammel belongs in a museum,” and features such as “A Word from the Designer,” were applauded, as were the question- and-answer sidebars.
But some panelists found the masses of information overwhelming. “Too much copy is not always a good thing; I stopped reading,” grumbled one judge.
Customer service is emphasized throughout, with references to the company’s 800-number, Website, and Bridge City Tool Club for frequent buyers. The $5 lifetime guarantee “to recalibrate, resquare or replace” any tool is noteworthy too. But the company’s cover statement that “it may take up to nine months to complete a small production run” was a source of consternation for many. “Putting customer service on the cover is great, but why bother when it’s to say that fulfillment can take nine months!” exclaimed one judge. Others found the statement ambiguous, since many products are available within just 10 days.
All in all, however, the judges agreed that Bridge City Tool Works accomplishes its mission. With a touch of glamour and an emphasis on quality, the catalog captures the romance of woodworking. As one judge said, “Bridge City has found a niche market for crafted woodworking tools.”