British (Shirt) Invasion in the Making?

A little more than two years ago, Charles Tyrwhitt, a London-based manufacturer/marketer of high-end men’s shirts, entered the U.S. market with a catalog/Internet program. This fall, with U.S. catalog circulation expected to reach 3.5 million by year’s end, Tyrwhitt is importing a marketing strategy that has worked for it back in the U.K.: newspaper inserts.

The company inserted 16-page catalogs into 900,000 copies of the Oct. 6 issue of “The New York Times.” Subscribers in regions of the paper’s New York-area market received the catalog with their Sunday newspaper. If the program goes well, the company will expand into other urban markets, such as Washington and Boston, says Tyrwhitt co-owner/managing director Peter Higgins.

“We’ve built up a U.S. customer file of 40,000 over two years,” Higgins says. “We’re now mostly focused on catalog/mail order, and the New York store presence will help support mail order because it will give us credibility and customers a sense of security–that we’re an American player.”

Tyrwhitt, which inserts catalogs in several U.K. newspapers, has an arrangement with “Financial Times” that it hopes to repeat on this side of the Atlantic: In exchange for inserting its catalog in the paper, Tyrwhitt offers (and pays for) free one-month subscriptions to the paper to readers.

The British insert programs “have been very effective,” Higgins says. “But like all things you do it a lot, then it reaches a level of saturation, and then you try something else.”

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