Fingerhut’s Hispanic push

Oct 01, 1998 9:30 PM  By

After trimming circulation of its general merchandise catalog last year to bolster flat profits, Fingerhut is in a heavy growth mode. The $1.5 billion cataloger recently purchased five-title cataloger Arizona Mail Order Co. and launched thehut.com, a Website and catalog targeting 18- to 24-year-olds. And now the Minnetonka, MN-based firm is looking to grow its Hispanic audience after analysis showed a higher level of profitability among that group than among its traditional customer base, says Sigrid Page, Fingerhut’s Hispanic marketing manager.

The cataloger is prospecting to hotline names from Spanish-surname and Spanish-speaking response lists and placing ads in Reader’s Digest’s Spanish-language version, Selecciones, and Madison Direct Marketing’s Hispanic co-op mailer. Fingerhut distributes six Spanish-language catalogs a year and puts Spanish-language wraps on nearly all its 100-plus English-language books.

Since it began producing a Spanish-language catalog in 1993, Fingerhut has flagged more than 1 million Hispanic customers-or roughly 3.2% of its 31 million-name file-who prefer to be marketed to in Spanish. Page’s group added a field in the database for language preference, then made the field visible on the customer service and telemarketing screens. Language preference also had to be flagged as a select to perform marketing analyses, and the interactive voice response system had to have Spanish-language prompts. Fingerhut is now considering versioning catalogs and wraps by the recipient’s area of origin, such as Cuba and Mexico.

Paragon rolls out home book Paragon Holdings is rolling out its Practica catalog this month after a July test that not only outperformed sales projections, but also provided insight into how to position the book. “The purpose of the test wasn’t to reach a certain level of sales but to gain information on what types of list segments and products worked, as well as where we could take the business,” says Paragon president Coy Clement.

As its name suggests, Practica sells practical home and garden items ranging from garden hose storage bowls to air purifiers. The cataloger has replaced roughly half of the products from the test version for the 56-page October edition. Paragon also redesigned the catalog to include 10% more merchandise, “now that we know which items need more or less space,” Clement says.

Practica is mailing to an undisclosed number of rented names from compiled and catalog lists that cater to the company’s core audience of females 45-60 years old. “We wanted to test a wide variety of lists and tried everything from gift catalogs to women’s apparel to hard goods such as tools and furnishings,” Clement says. Also in the mix are names from Paragon’s flagship gifts book and its Bits & Pieces puzzles catalog, as well as names from the Good Idea home products and gifts catalog, which Paragon bought from bankrupt Vail By Design last year.

Practica, in fact, was created in part from the assets of Good Idea, which include transaction history records with response results broken out by rental list. “I thought it was best to rethink the title and the concept,” Clement says. “I didn’t feel there was a lot of brand equity in the Good Idea name and wanted to grow the company beyond the Paragon catalog. Practica was the result.”