Holiday Catalog Sales Snapshots


Holiday catalog sales at women’s apparel marketer Frederick’s of Hollywood were up 3% from last year, says vice president of marketing Danielle Savin. That put the company right on plan — the post-Sept. 11 plan, that is.

“Our in-home dates for the holiday mailings were Sept. 9 and 10,” Savin explains. “Had we not reworked the plan, sales would’ve been down 10% from the original plan.”

The sluggish economy and the terrorist attacks depressed response; to boost it, Frederick’s added free shipping on orders of more than $100. Savin says this tactic increased the average order size 7%.

Frederick’s has succeeded in migrating a significant portion of its direct business — as much as 40% — to the Web, “which makes us much more profitable,” Savin says. “We use an entire page of the catalog to tell customers to order from the Website.”
Mark Del Franco


For most small marketers, a 30% decline in sales would be catastrophic. But for Atlanta-based B.D. Jeffries, it’s good news of a sort: The marketer of crocodile- and alligator-skin accessories slashed its circulation by an even greater percentage. In 2000 it mailed 200,000 holiday catalogs; in 2001, a mere 75,000.

“We’re just trying to ride out the storm,” says owner/president Brad Weitz. “We are a high-end marketer, and the products are expensive. We didn’t want to get stuck with a lot of inventory. Overall, we think our strategy will help keep our margins and profits healthy.”

The cataloger/retailer revised its holiday plan shortly after Sept. 11. To accommodate the downscaling of its projections and inventory levels, B.D. Jeffries didn’t mail its holiday book until the first week in November, about five weeks later than typical.

“I think the later mailing actually helped us,” Weitz says. “People were not focused on buying in September and October. But by November people had adjusted a bit and realized that they needed to buy some gifts.”

The bulk of the catalog’s holiday business came in during the first week of December. And the extra week between Thanksgiving and Christmas this past season “certainly helped us,” Weitz says, “especially since we dropped late.”
Shayn Ferriolo


Food gifts cataloger Fairytale Brownies offered discounts and gifts with purchase to buyers who ordered before mid-December. No matter: Most still bought at the last minute, says Eileen Spitalny, marketing and sales team leader for the Scottsdale, AZ-based marketer.

Fairytale Brownies’ holiday sales were up 13% from the previous year’s, and annual sales were 20% higher. But the cataloger had increased its holiday circulation 20%. For the first time, the company sent a gift mailing to customers who had not previously purchased during the season, a strategy that Spitalny says did reap some business. Fairytale Brownies also mailed deeper into its house file, sending holiday books to 25-month and even 36-month buyers, receiving a 1% response.

With December sales 8% off plan, Fairytale Brownies did find itself with some excess inventory, which it decided to sell via its Website for 35% off through Jan. 13. But its traditional Christmas offerings, the baked goods bedecked in red and green ribbons, did sell out — even with a 60% increase in inventory levels.

Looking forward, Spitalny says the company is planning on continued growth with an “aggressive plan” — allthough not as aggressive as in recent years. It is increasing spring/summer circulation 40% and adding a summer edition of the catalog.
Ellen Hansen

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