Kelly’s Kids keeps maturing

Like its audience, Kelly’s Kids is growing. The children’s clothier is expanding its catalog circulation and mailing frequency to become a true multichannel merchant.

In January the Natchez, MS-based company mailed 1.5 million copies of a 40-page book. That’s a circulation increase of about 40% from its previous mailing, a 40-page book distributed in June 2005. And whereas nearly all of the June 2005 mailing went to customers and sales representatives — almost exclusively women who sell the apparel at home parties — this time around about one-third went to rented names.

What’s more, by this summer Kelly’s Kids hopes to be mailing its catalog monthly, rather than every December and June. The company sells its proprietary line of apparel exclusively.

As part of its renewed focus on prospecting via print, the book was redesigned. “Now we are focused more on model shots and more descriptive copy,” says general manager Carol Follmer.

Founded in 1982, Kelly’s Kids has always produced some sort of print marketing vehicle — starting with brochures, then expanding to catalogs. But only recently has the company made a major push to sell direct to consumers other than via sales representatives.

“They came to us about a year ago inquiring about what it takes to create a true catalog program,” says Lois Boyle, president of Mission, KS-based direct marketing consulting firm J. Schmid & Associates, which worked with Kelly’s Kids on the catalog relaunch. “And in an effort to go multichannel they thought that the catalog/Internet concept made sense.”

Kelly’s Kids launched its Website in late 2003; in December 2005 it redesigned the site to coincide with the relaunch of the print catalog. The Website now accounts for about 10% of overall orders, about twice that of the inaugural site.

“The Website was originally used only as a support tool for the home-party business,” Follmer says. “We have not yet started a Web campaign to start driving potential customers to the site.” The company does plan to do so as part of its future PR campaign, she adds.

Follmer estimates the catalog average order size at $150-$200, comparable to that of Web and home-party order, and the average price point at about $32. “The average order size is generally higher because clothes are most often bought in sets,” J. Schmid’s Boyle notes. Kelly’s Kids catalog items are presented in “collections” designed for mixing and matching.

Still catering to moms

Follmer says that the company’s push into catalog sales should not threaten its more than 1,000 sales representatives. “Primarily we want to increase brand recognition in the national market,” she says. “We will continue to promote the home-party business and filter new leads to our reps.”

The sales reps maintain their customer bases. Catalogs shipped to representatives’ customers are coded with a rep-specific source code to ensure that the reps receive credit for those orders.

“The most important thing to know about Kelly’s Kids is that we cater to moms,” says Follmer. “Our business model allows for stay-at-home moms to work as sales reps and make commissions on the clothing they sell.”

Follmer says the average Kelly’s Kids party has about 10 customers, including the hostess, who receives free clothing for sponsoring the event.

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