Catalog creative redefines image

Jan 01, 1999 10:30 PM  By

Jewelry and tabletop gifts retailer Michael C. Fina has always been known as a discounter. But the family-owned business is changing its image, in part through a new catalog.

The company has mailed what it calls a promotions book, featuring special-purchase and discounted merchandise, for 50 years. But in September, Fina launched Fifth Avenue, a catalog of upscale jewelry and gifts. With items such as a $21,000 diamond necklace and cultured South Sea pearls for $65,000, the emphasis is definitely on deluxe, rather than discounts. “This catalog reflects who we’ve become over the last few years,” explains vice president of merchandising Hilary Donahue. “In the past, we were known only as a discounter.”

Fina still distributes the promotions book to its existing customer base, but it hopes the 56-page, 9″ x 11-1/4″ spin-off will attract a more upscale customer. The company is relying largely on the catalog’s creative to emphasize the upmarket image. For instance, the Fifth Avenue book advertises fewer name brands and dedicates two to four pages to each brand, and it displays far fewer items on each page than does the promotions catalog.

A traffic builder too The initial catalog mailing went to nearly 1 million names, including the company’s best customers and some rented names. The second mailing dropped in November to an undisclosed number of customers and prospects. “Early indications of catalog sales are good, and as long as things go well, we’ll probably increase the mailing quantity,” Donahue says. The company plans to mail the Fifth Avenue catalog three times yearly. Taking the catalog to the Web will likely be the next big move, but no plans are in the works yet.

Michael C. Fina is also using the catalog to drive people into its posh new retail store on New York’s Fifth Avenue. The new retail location is twice the size of the company’s previous store, which had been in the city’s jewelry district. Blow-in cards offered discounts of up to $150 on in-person purchases made in the new store prior to Nov. 1. “We found, over the years, that our retail business is growing faster than our mail-order business, so we wanted to encourage that natural growth by providing another outlet for it,” Donahue says.