Barb Todd, who ran Portland, OR-based The Good Catalog Co. since cofounding it in 1992, left the company on Dec. 31, the day her contract with parent company Reader’s Digest expired. Good Catalog’s other cofounders, Bill Nicolai and Sandy Anderson, had left in the fall. The Chappaqua, NY-based Reader’s Digest bought the multititle cataloger in October 1998, when it was doing about $25 million in annual sales.
It was no secret that Todd and her partners intended to go public or sell the company after a few years in business and get out. They did, in fact, attempt a private placement offering in the mid-’90s, but it didn’t yield the funds they’d sought. So they put the company on the selling block. Reader’s Digest acquired it as a platform from which to build a catalog business.
Todd’s exit “was a planned departure from the time the company was sold to Reader’s Digest,” says vice president of operations Bill McMahon, who has been with the Good Catalog for four years. “Change didn’t come immediately, which was good for the company; the transition went well, and the company is moving in a positive direction.”
Todd, who says she has officially retired, and her former partners signed no-compete clauses and have no plans to get back into the catalog world. “Reader’s Digest has made a real commitment to the company,” Todd says, “and is making good changes while keeping the business plan of what made Good Catalog work, all while maintaining the corporate culture” in Portland.
New leadership, new spin-off Good Catalog’s new president is Reader’s Digest’s Ralph Pinto, who is based in the parent company’s headquarters. He is also president of Reader’s Digest’s Gifts.com, a gifts cataloger/Web merchant. The company recently hired Barb Standish, a seasoned catalog executive who has worked at Crate & Barrel, Brylane, and Spiegel, as vice president of marketing.
Last year, Good Catalog began emphasizing its brand name on its catalog covers, rather than the individual catalog titles, which include The Westbury Collection, Kensington, and Good Finds, McMahon says. Furthermore, Good Catalog unveiled a high-end jewelry and electronics catalog called the Luxury Collection.
In the initial test in October, the jewelry book mailed to 800,000 names culled from the Good Catalog lists, as well as to prospects. A second edition went out in January to 500,000 customers and prospects. The second book’s circulation was lower, McMahon says, “because it was a January book, and we didn’t want to go overboard.”