Vermont Teddy Bear on CatMan This month, Arthur Borden, direct mail manager of stuffed bears marketer Vermont Teddy Bear, reviews the CatMan catalog management system from Avexxis Corp.

Vermont Teddy Bear purchased CatMan software from Avon, CT-based Avexxis Corp. in February, 1995. The Shelburne, VT-based cataloger uses an HP platform to run the program. During peak periods, such as the days leading up to Valentine’s Day, about 200 staffers, mostly order-takers, use CatMan. The catalog management system also interfaces with the company’s financial management system, Platinum. Vermont Teddy Bear paid $197,000 for the CatMan software, and $250,000 for hardware that includes the HP Platform and the host Terminal Emulation.

Strengths: “CatMan can be installed modularly, so certain parts of the system can be added later, such as an e-commerce interface or computer telephony integration [CTI], and the software can accommodate such add-ons. Also, the CatMan system is able to print out individual picking tickets, which makes it easier for our workers to retrieve items for fulfillment.”

Weaknesses: “I don’t know if it’s an internal function here at Vermont Teddy Bear or a function of the system itself, but when I want to generate sales reports, for instance, to determine which items are best-sellers in the catalog vs. on the Web, I have to request that information from our IT department. Also, the system is poorly arranged for [multichannel] marketing initiatives. Suppose a discounted item is tied to a specific promotion. The way the system is arranged now, we are not able to look more deeply at the information to see whether the source of that promotion came from the catalog or via the Website. So in effect, it makes marketing between the catalog and our Internet business a bit problematic.

“CatMan is also limited when it comes to upselling and cross-selling. For instance, there are no pop-up screens that prompt order-takers to suggest cross-selling opportunities. Suppose a customer orders our Birthday Bear. There are no screens to prompt our order-takers to suggest adding a Happy Birthday sash for $12 or perhaps a $6 pink velvet rose bouquet. But we’ve worked around that by supplying our order-takers with a printed page of suggestions.”

Training: “When we add seasonal order-takers around the holidays, it’s a fairly easy system to pick up, provided the users have the basic computer skills.”

E-commerce: Vermont Teddy Bear does not use CatMan’s Web application.

Overall system ranking (on a scale of 1-10): “I would rate CatMan a 5.”

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