Jackson & Perkins unites

Rather than mailing multiple specialty catalogs as it did last year, Medford, OR-based Jackson & Perkins has combined the books into an “aggregate” catalog, Garden Inspired Living. Two versions of the catalog mailed in January to 8 million customers and prospects.

More than 4.5 million house file customers received a 100-page version. A second edition, in March, was expanded to 136 pages to take advantage of Easter and Mother’s Day, key flower- and gift-giving holidays. The initial prospecting version, which mailed to 3.2 million consumers, totaled 48 pages; the second edition grew to 56 pages.

Garden Inspired Living is broken out into four distinct categories: roses, which make up 40% of the book; outdoor living products, which account for 25%; perennials, which make up another 20%; and garden-inspired gifts. Last year Jackson & Perkins had mailed four niche books, each of which focused on one of those four categories.

Despite moving from four catalogs to one, Jackson & Perkins isn’t contracting its offerings. In fact, the number of furniture and outdoor decor offerings has increased 15%, says vice president of merchandising Diane Reeder. A division of Harry & David Holdings, Jackson & Perkins expanded its line of dining and lounge furniture to include wood, wicker, and metal. It also carries a wider selection of solar lighting and outdoor rugs than it had and a number of new products in the birding subcategory, such as decorative birdhouses, feeders, and baths.

Reeder says Jackson & Perkins viewed a beefed-up selection of decorative items as a natural extension of the roses and other live plants for which the company is best known. It’s a move that Sunnyvale, CA-based merchandise consultant Kathy Revello deems wise, especially as the gross margins for hard goods are better than those for fresh flowers.

There could be one downside, however: Revello notes that the cataloger’s return rates are likely to increase with more hard goods. The average return rate for outdoor furniture is 5%-8%, according to Richmond, VA-based operations consultancy F. Curtis Barry & Co., which is much higher than that of plants.

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