Destination Catalogs Pay Off for Chico’s

Women’s apparel cataloger/retailer Chico’s is making the most of its location photography shoots. The Fort Myers, FL-based company has used popular U.S. cities as destination themes for its key 2002 catalogs mailings in March, May, September, and November. And according to vice president of marketing Jim Frain, the destination books have been “very profitable” in terms of sales and customer feedback.

Chico’s May 2002 catalog, shot in New Orleans in March, included nonselling editorial highlighting the city’s famed restaurants and attractions such as the streetcars, the jazz scene, and the French Quarter. Chico’s September catalog was shot in Seattle at such popular spots as the Pike Place Market, while the November catalog destination was Saratoga Springs, NY.

Many marketers would be loathe to use valuable catalog real estate to showcase, well, real estate. “We’re devoting catalog pages [to the location editorial] that we’re not using to sell product,” Frain says. But the creative gamble is paying off. The first two destination catalogs “were two of our most profitable books of all time,” he says.

The catalogs also drive traffic to the company’s 370 stores, which generate the bulk of Chico’s $450.9 million in annual sales. Using discount coupons in the book to track response in its stores and catalogs and on its Website, Chico’s found that the destination editions indeed brought a spike in retail traffic. “We typically see an increase upward of 30% in store traffic with any book,” Frain says, but retail traffic surged even higher after the destination catalog drops.