Home Trends awakens to a new niche

Jun 26, 2005 9:30 PM  By

Realizing that its merchandise offerings were anything but basic, Rochester, NY-based cataloger Home Trends in January refocused and renamed its Back to Basics catalog. Now called Home Trends Sleep Solutions, the catalog sells products exclusively for the bedroom and to help customers improve their sleep. Products range from anti-snoring devices to mattress pads.

Originally focusing on home accessories and housewares, with the tagline “Quality at Affordable Prices,” Back to Basics had struggled to keep up with retail giants such as Bed Bath & Beyond and Linens ‘n Things. “We shop the large stores to see what we’re up against,” says merchandise manager Janet Irwin. “While we know that they may carry more items, what we have is unique.”

Much of Home Trends’ and Sleep Solutions’ merchandise, such as insomnia relievers and products to alleviate pressure-point pain, isn’t readily available in stores. “Many people buy through the mail because they can often get items that they can’t find in big stores,” says Irwin.

Home Trends customers have always been helpful on the product development front, and they were instrumental in bringing about the change to Sleep Solutions. “Our customers made it clear that they wanted more specialty items like the ‘memory foam’ that is contained in mattress toppers, pillows, even slippers,” says Irwin. Based on sales and customer inquiries and requests, “we decided late last year to switch the focus of the Back to Basics catalog. When you specialize in everything from little problem-solvers to Oreck vacuums, you have to be able to allow for flexibility.” Also, she notes, “When you are trying to compete with industry giants, being unique can make all the difference.”

The company’s core Home Trends catalog sells household cleaning, storage, and organizational products. A spin-off, Picket Fence, sells similar items for the garden and garage. Sleep Solutions and Picket Fence mail every six weeks; Home Trends mails every four weeks.

Irwin says that there is not much crossover business among the three titles: “We tend to see a lot of customer loyalty by publication.” She adds that there are so many categories among the three books that it wouldn’t help Home Trends to combine them. While there is some overlap, most of the company’s core customers tend to focus on one specific area of the business.