Downsizing Hits Smithsonian Catalogue

The staff of the Smithsonian Catalogue department is a lot smaller these days: Six of the mailer’s 10 positions have been eliminated, according to spokesperson Linda St. Thomas.

The remaining catalog employees now work in the retail division, which has absorbed catalog operations, and is run by Peter Gibbons. But St. Thomas insists the Smithsonian catalog will continue.

What’s more, she says a redesign of www.smithsonianstore.com is planned to be completed by September. “Catalog is no longer a separate division,” St. Thomas says. “It’s within the retail division, and when you do that you shed some positions.”

St. Thomas says the organization had to eliminate duplicate positions, such as buyers. “They have to cut costs at Smithsonian because revenue is down. But the catalog won’t close.”

Smithsonian currently does eight catalog drops per year, St. Thomas says, and that number will probably be reduced to six in the future. But the number of catalog pages will remain in the standard 40-60 range. “We will try to change demographics somewhat, looking for merchandise for younger consumers,” she says.

The catalog will also offer additional items, including some merchandise from Smithsonianstore.com and information about the company’s travel program. “It will have a different look and be more integrated into Smithsonian museums and collections,” St. Thomas says.

Smithsonian’s direct business was closed four months last year because of its association with BlueSky Brands, which shut down in March 2008. The Smithsonian was a client of BlueSky’s third-party fulfillment provider AB&C Group, which closed down shortly after the company’s catalogs—which included Paragon Gifts, National Wildlife Direct and Winterthur—were shuttered.

Since then, the catalogs for The Paragon and National Wildlife Direct were relaunched. The Smithsonian Catalogue and online store returned to business last August.

The catalog and Website sell merchandise inspired by Smithsonian Institution’s collection of jewelry, clothing, furniture and household accessories. Revenue from the catalog and Website support the Institution’s exhibitions and public programs.

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