Live from NEMOA: The Core Competencies of Appleseed’s

Portland, ME—They say an apple a day keep the doctor away, but women’s apparel cataloger Appleseed’s has a different regimen for health. In a session titled “Managing Healthy Growth: Booming with the Boomers” at the fall NEMOA conference held here Sept. 19-21, the merchant’s vice president of marketing Claire Spofford presented Appleseeds’ five factors of fitness.

1) Know your core customer. You have to know your customers’ hearts and minds, Spofford said, which includes demographic data as well as style and shopping profiles. For instance, if you put together an apparel assortment based on demographics alone, you probably wouldn’t meet your customer’ needs. “You also want to use transactional data to tailor your offer and communications,” she said.

2) A healthy diet with plenty of nourishment and little fat.
Appleseed’s, part of the $1.1 billion Orchard Brands catalog umbrella, boasts 65% of the names of women age 55+ who shop direct. The mailer shares its database with the other catalogers in the stable, which include Blair, Draper’s & Damon’s, The Tog Shop, and Norm Thompson. Fit circulation is important, Spofford said: “You have to prospect to grow.”

3) Cross train and develop muscle groups. This is all about a multichannel approach. Appleseed’s, which currently has seven stores, plans to open 10-15 retail locations in the next few years. Why? “Ninety-percent of the dollar value in this market is done through retail,” Spofford said. In contrast, only 20% of the cataloger’s sales are from the Internet channel.

4) Tightening the belt. Appleseed’s takes a synergistic approach to cost savings, from a senior team that meets regularly to determine how to keep expenses in line to benchmarking with its sister companies. “As things on the front end go up and down, this can really save you,” Spofford said.

5) Strength for scale. A powerhouse such as Orchard Brands has serious negotiating power in printing, paper, shipping, and merge/purge, among other functions. “Each brand has its own distinctive, focused front end; the value is from shared services such as IT, human resources, and distribution,” Spofford said.

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