A favorite catalog of survivalists, Brigade Quartermasters has seen demand for its products soar since the Sept. 11 attacks. “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 past 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 potential plane accident, Abney says. And many of those buyers are Japanese. (About 10% of Brigade Quartermasters’ sales are, in fact, international.) But now its gas masks, which the company sources from a variety of companies, are on backorder.
“We’re running a backlog,” Abney says, “but I think the longest it has taken us to fill an order was three weeks. We’ve sold out of all of our gas masks — even the 1950s surplus gas masks that aren’t recommended for a biological attack.”
Brigade Quartermasters has also run 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 items, 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 2 million-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 since switched to a Website hosting company with more server space and greater bandwidth.