Live From the ACMA Forum: Death Knell for Slim-Jims?

Washington—It looks like the slim-catalog might be dead. Or at least, near death.

During Wednesday’s session, “The Skinny On Slim-Jims,” at the second annual National Catalog Advocacy & Strategy Forum, Larry Davis, vice president of marketing for jewelry and gifts cataloger Ross-Simons, proclaimed: “The Slimmy Jimmy is dead.”

Of all the slim-jim modifications—which take effect Sept. 8—Davis said the requirement of three, nonperforated tabs makes the letter-sized booklet nearly impossible to open. “Tabs reduced our test results 40%-80%,” he said.

“The tabs are three pieces of paper that say ‘do not open’ and the customer agrees,” Davis said. “The slim-jim will disappear in the industry.”

To view the new standards for slim-jims (federal register notice #39 CFR part 111), visit: http://pe.usps.com/FRN/Booklets.txt; http://pe.usps.gov/FRN/New_Standards_For_Dom_Mailing_Svcs_Final.pdf.

Slim-jims became more popular after May 2007, when catalogers got hit with postal rate increases ranging from 20%-40%. But the USPS says slim-jims jam sorting machines, so it developed revisions for the physical characteristics of the booklets.

Davis said Ross-Simons mailed 60 million catalogs before 2007; that number has since dropped to 40 million, and fall further as the merchant returns to full-sized catalogs. With a slim-jim, Davis noted: “The romance of opening a catalog is gone.”

Vicki Updike, vice president of marketing for gifts cataloger Miles Kimball, agreed that the new tab requirements for slim-jim books are destructive: “We’re actually transitioning back to full-sized catalogs because it’s almost sealing the catalog shut. We’ve found comail partners for when we go back to full-size books.

Uno Alla Volta, a catalog of gifts and collectibles, whose title translates also tested the new tabs, said founder/CEO Terri Alpert. “The God-awful looking tabs performed well, but only with our very best customers. Otherwise, no one is responding.”

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