Lists and Prospecting: Reviving Dead Lists

A good deal on a rented list is one thing; a solid response from such a file is often a whole other matter. But it’s possible to get both by renting or acquiring a list from a catalog that’s no longer mailing.

For one year’s unlimited use, you can sometimes pay as little as half of what it would cost you to rent the same list three to five times in that same year. And in many cases, response is at least on par with the response from when the books were still in the mail.

Granted, with a dead list, “there are no new names to go back to and not much to continue with,” notes Amy Fusco, vice president of list management for Mokrynski & Associates in Hackensack, NJ. But if a cataloger has a history with a list that’s stopped mailing, “the cataloger can continue to use the list until response dictates otherwise.”

There are three ways you can go about obtaining lists of defunct catalogs:

  1. Buy a list outright to gain exclusive, unlimited use: Often when catalogers have filed Chapter 7 or Chapter 11, the bankruptcy court will appoint a list firm to sell the list as an asset.

  2. Buy nonexclusive rights for unlimited use: When it folded last spring, women’s resortwear mailer Porto Banus assigned Mokrynski & Associates to sell nonexclusive rights to its list to several catalogers, Fusco says. In December, after the list had been sold to an undisclosed number of mailers, it was pulled off the market — though the marketers that bought the nonexclusive rights can continue mailing the list indefinitely.

  3. Rent the list: When a catalog that has stopped mailing puts its list up for sale, the file often remains available for rental as well. “Some companies may not be able to afford to buy the nonexclusive rights or might not want such lists for unlimited use” and would rather continue renting the names, Fusco says.

Get out your calculators

Before bidding on a defunct list, you need to calculate how much life you can get out of the file and how many times you can mail the names profitably.

Typically, the price for nonexclusive unlimited rights winds up two-and-a-half to three times the base rental rate, says Fran Wollmann, vice president of the Pompano Beach, FL-based list brokerage division of Fasano & Associates. So if the list had cost $100/M to rent when the catalog was still active, it may cost $250/M-$300/M for nonexclusive unlimited rights.

Children’s Wear Digest, a $35 million children’s clothing cataloger, bought the nonexclusive, unlimited use rights to the After the Stork and Playclothes lists after their multititle parent, Fulcrum Direct, closed in 1998. Richmond, VA-based Children’s Wear figured it would mail the two lists five more times in one season, with some drop-off each time, says president Jim Klaus. “We needed to figure out how much that drop-off would be and how many times we could continue to mail the lists until they died altogether.”

The Mark Group, a $120 million multititle apparel and gifts cataloger, bought the nonexclusive rights to the Porto Banus list last summer. Before doing so, says director of circulation Debbie Musikas, the Boca Raton, FL-based Mark Group performed a breakeven analysis of mailing its Boston Proper and Mark, Fore & Strike catalogs to the list during the course of a year. Musikas estimates that the nonexclusive rights cost The Mark Group about 50% of what it would have paid to rent the list several times during a 12-month period.

In the case of catalogs in bankruptcy courts, “the courts will often allow you to continue renting the names to generate revenue to offset the company’s liabilities,” says Susan Gilbert, president of Fasano & Associates’ list management division in Sherman Oaks, CA. “The list then becomes available at discounted rates. What might have cost, say, $135/M now could be had for around $90/M.”

Long shelf lives

Even age-sensitive dead lists can be a hot commodity. When Fulcrum Direct’s teen apparel catalog Zoë folded in 1998, rival Delia’s bought the title’s list outright, Gilbert says. And Just Nikki, a preteen fashion catalog launched — and folded — in 1998 by retailer Claire’s Stores, is still actively rented, she says. Since the Just Nikki names were preteens four years ago, these girls are now in their mid- and late teens — a prime target for companies such as Delia’s.

You can also wring more life out of a dead list by modeling it. Kirkland, WA-based gifts cataloger Celebrate-Express, which had bought the lists of Fulcrum titles After the Stork, Playclothes, and Just For Kids, last year modeled the names to select those buyers who had since made other catalog purchases. CelebrateExpress has since put the database on the market for rent and for sale on a nonexclusive basis.

LIST RENTALS

Dead but Not Buried

Below are some available lists catalogs that have either suspended mailing or have gone out of business altogether.

ALLEN ALLEN (women’s apparel)

Last updated: June 2000
Rental cost: $105/M
(also available for nonexclusive, unlimited use)
Contact: Mokrynski & Associates, 201-488-5656

CHILDCRAFT (toys)

Last updated: June 2001
Rental cost: $96/M
(also available for nonexclusive, unlimited use)
Contact: D-J Associates, 203-431-8777

THE DAILY PLANET (gifts)

Last updated: June 2000
Rental cost: $95/M
(also available for nonexclusive, unlimited use)
Contact: Mokrynski & Associates, 201-488-5656

DROOG (teen boys clothing)

Last mailed: 2000
Rental cost: $110/M
(also available for nonexclusive, unlimited use)
Contact: Fasano & Associates, 818-728-9030

ESPRIT CATALOG BUYERS (apparel)

Last mailed: summer 2001; last updated September 2001
Rental cost: $100/M
Contact: Millard Group, 603-924-9262

JUST NIKKI (teen girls’ apparel)

Last mailed: 1998
Rental cost: $120/M
(also available for nonexclusive, unlimited use)
Contact: Fasano & Associates, 818-728-9030

KNIGHT’S SHOE STUDIO (women’s shoes)

Last updated: June 2001
Rental cost: $110/M
(also available for nonexclusive, unlimited use)
Contact: Mokrynski & Associates, 201-488-5656

LINEN & LACE (European lace)

Last updated: December 2000
Rental cost: $105/M
(also available for nonexclusive, unlimited use)
Contact: Mokrynski & Associates, 201-488-5656

NABISCO CATALOG (gifts)

Last updated: September 2000
Rental cost: $95/M
(also available for nonexclusive, unlimited use)
Contact: D-J Associates, 203-431-8777

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