Makeover helps Suplay pin down sales

A chance meeting with a creative consultant at the Annual Catalog Conference two years ago resulted in a redo for Elma, WA-based cataloger Suplay Wrestlers World that has boosted sales considerably. After meeting Suplay owner Gary Frey and looking at his catalog, Carol Worthington-Levy told him she could help improve his book. After the show she e-mailed him a detailed critique, and three months later Frey had a revamped catalog.

The 36-year-old Suplay sells more than 700 SKUs of wrestling equipment and accessories to schools. The 48-page catalog suffered from what Worthington-Levy, creative services partner with San Rafael, CA-based catalog consultancy Lenser, calls “socialist” design: Each page is overloaded with products that are all given the same amount of selling space. “My idea of a catalog was to cram as many items as possible into each and every page,” Frey admits.

Worthington-Levy had Frey determine the two best-selling items for each of the product categories, which include headgear and kneepads. In the headgear category, the top two items, which account for 65% of all headgear sales, were allotted nearly half of a page. Items that sold fewer than 25 units a book were no longer depicted with a photo, just copy. Worthington-Levy also added educational sidebars on wrestling equipment and rankings, to reflect the expertise of Frey, a former high school wrestling coach.

In addition, the catalog needed more excitement on the cover and throughout the book, says Worthington-Levy. To add action to the book, Frey took close-up photos of wrestlers engaged in a match for the covers of the 2004 and 2005 catalogs. The covers had previously featured six photos of roughly the same size, only three of which included athletes.

The revamped book mailed to 40,000 house file names in September 2003 and was inserted in 11,000 copies of Wrestling USA magazine. Suplay also rented names for the first time, mailing to 160,000 prospects. Instead of mailing just once a year, in the first week of September, Suplay now mails books in mid-January and mid-April as well.

Suplay is spending about 5% more on print production than it had prior to the revamp. But it has quickly seen a return on investment. Sales have risen 37% since the redesign, to approximately $3 million a year. Frey estimates that the design improvements alone were responsible for about two-thirds of the revenue increase.

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