LAUNCHES: A new `Soft’ sell

Does the industry need yet another catalog selling spa products such as aromatherapy treatments, lounging apparel, and chaise longues in which to luxuriate?

The Triad Group apparently thinks so. This month the St. Louis-based company is launching Soft Surroundings with a 500,000-name mailing targeting working women between the ages of 36 and 60.

Partners in the Triad Group include Grant Williams, president of multititle cataloger Knight’s Ltd., and Gil Kemp, president of Knight’s title Home Decorators Collection. But while St. Louis-based Knight’s is providing the fulfillment and customer service for Soft Surroundings, as well as names from its catalogs – which include women’s apparel titles City Spirit and Papillon – Soft Surroundings is not a Knight’s book.

Triad is committed enough to the title to have already scheduled a fall issue, 750,000 copies of which are slated to drop Oct. 4. According to Soft Surroundings president Robin Sheldon, a significant portion of the merchandise – 42% of the apparel and 40% of the bedding – is private-label.

Exclusive merchandise may not be enough to ensure success in the crowded spa goods market. “The category is reaching its saturation point,” says Leila Griffith, a Jacksonville, FL-based merchandising consultant. “But Soft Surroundings could work because of Knight’s Ltd.’s large house file of apparel and hard goods buyers” to draw from.

With its Domestications and The Company Store catalogs, Hanover Direct has the lower-end and moderate linens markets covered. Now the $546.1 million marketer is targeting upscale consumers with its launch of Turiya, slated for September.

Turiya, which means “harmony” in Sanskrit, will sell linens in the $120-$600 price range, comforters that cost $400-$2,000, and other luxury home fashions, including items from Hanover’s Scandia Down line of linens and down comforters. At press time, Hanover would not comment on mailing strategies or circulation figures for the launch.

“Our long-range hopes are to establish a new layer of business for Hanover Direct,” says vice president/general manager Farley Nachemin. “The catalog reinforces the company’s greater awareness of the lifestyle of the upscale customer. The luxuries business has been doing very well, and we want to position Hanover Direct to that market.”

Hanover already has a presence in the luxury market with Gump’s By Mail, which sells upscale gifts and home decor. And while the company may be better known for its more moderate-price books, such as apparel title International Male and home products catalog Improvements, 50% of Hanover is owned by Richemont, the French parent company of the luxe Cartier and Piaget jewelry brands.

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