Life after Brainstorms

Jun 01, 1998 9:30 PM  By

Anatomical Chart Co. president Marshall Cordell, who last September sold his $12 million Brainstorms novelties catalog to multititle mailer 800-Trekker, has revamped his flagship business-to-business catalog of anatomy charts and models. But he hasn’t completely left the novelties business: He’s now supplying Catalog Ventures’ Mind’s Eye catalog with autographed photos of ’50s TV stars-while also running a few novelties in the $12 million Anatomical catalog.

The 1998-99 edition of Anatomical Chart, which mailed in late April to 750,000 customers and prospects at pharmaceuticals companies, is Anatomical’s first full-line catalog in two years. “We were having so much trouble with Brainstorms that we were distracted and hadn’t put out a full-line Anatomical catalog since March 1996,” Cordell says. “As a result, sales dragged because we were forcing our customers to work off an old catalog. Now, however, our preliminary sales have yielded an average order size of at least $160,” up from last year’s average order of $144.

The Brainstorms catalog, which Cordell spun off in 1992, had been in something of a tailspin over the past year. “It was an unprofitable catalog in distress, so I had to unload it,” says Cordell, who won’t say how much he received from 800-Trekker.

For the new edition of the 27-year-old Anatomical, “I’ve mixed my own favorite Brainstorms items into the catalog, such as a gurgling guts eyeball and brain,” Cordell says.

He’s also retaining a portion of the Brainstorms business he launched a few years ago, when he featured actor Ken Osmond, who played Eddie Haskell on the Leave It to Beaver TV show, on the cover of Brainstorms. Since holiday ’97, Cordell’s company has been wholesaling personally autographed photos of Jerry Mathers (who played the Beaver on the series) to the Mind’s Eye catalog, which sells nostalgic-themed gifts. This fall, Mind’s Eye will add personally autographed photos from Osmond, Clayton Moore (The Lone Ranger), John Provost (Lassie), and Alan Young (Mr. Ed), among others. Cordell also plans to wholesale the autographed pictures to upscale gifts catalog Celebration Fantastic, although a deal hadn’t been finalized at press time.

In fact, Cordell hopes that Catalog Ventures or another mailer will spin off a catalog of these and other autographed photos, which the celebrities personalize for customers. But while Catalog Ventures president/CEO Jonathan Fleischmann says that the celebrity photos represent a categorical fit for Mind’s Eye, “it’s totally beyond me if this is a big business opportunity,” let alone a separate business.