International Update: Go, Canada

There’s at least one benefit to the continued weakness of the dollar against other major currencies, says Mark Bridges, vice president/director of international for Hackensack, NJ-based list services firm Mokrynskidirect. Because U.S. products are now more affordable to foreigners, this is an opportune time to prospect outside of the country.

Of course, there are many drawbacks and potential pitfalls to prospecting overseas. But most of them are not a major issue when marketing in Canada. For that reason, our neighbor to the north continues to attract U.S catalog entrants (and reentrants).

“Canada Post continued its program to support U.S. catalog efforts, chiefly through its BorderFree e-commerce initiative,” Bridges says. At the core of the program is a software solution that enables U.S merchants to provide Canadian customers with their final landed cost of goods (including preassessed duties and taxes if applicable) in Canadian currency online. Brookstone, Casual Living, Crate & Barrel, The Company Store, LinenSource, and Williams-Sonoma are among the merchants using BorderFree.

Another Canadian program with increased U.S. catalog participation in 2004, says Bridges, was the Website operated by Air Miles Canada, an Alliance Data Systems company. Some 30 merchants, predominantly major U.S. brands, offer shoppers automatically calculated reward miles to the 15.4 million Canadians—approximately 70% of Canadian households—enrolled in the Air Mile loyalty program. Participating merchants include Victoria’s Secret, J.Crew, L.L. Bean, Eddie Bauer, Brooks Brothers, and Sharper Image.

“While Canada remains a relatively modest opportunity in terms of total market size,” Bridges says, “the growth opportunities remain significant, with low levels of competition in all direct marketing channels and an affluent consumer base with real spending power.”