Monterey Bay Is Now the Best Place for Last Best Place

You can’t keep a good catalog down — or so hopes Monterey Bay Clothing Co. The $35 million-plus women’s apparel, jewelry, and home goods cataloger has relaunched The Last Best Place, a catalog of western-influenced women’s clothing and home goods.

Carlsbad, CA-based Monterey Bay bought Last Best Place this past February from Cincinnati-based Provident Bank, which had been holding the catalog’s assets for owner Lucinda Heekin and other investors. Heekin suspended operations in 2001 when she became ill. The catalog hadn’t mailed since June 2001.

Monterey Bay relaunched the book in August with a mailing to 1.3 million Last Best Place and Monterey Bay customers as well as to prospects. The company then mailed 7 million copies of a holiday edition in October and November. It plans to mail four seasonal editions throughout 2003, as well as eight editions of its Monterey Bay catalog.

To entice more customers to buy, Monterey Bay lowered the average price point in Last Best Place from $120 to $92, says Monterey Bay president Ann Hjemboe. “We’ll continue to keep it in that $88-$92 range, because we feel we can be more profitable that way.” The company continues to sell some of the higher-priced items the catalog traditionally offered, such as suede jackets ranging from $400 to $798.

In some ways, Monterey Bay’s acquisition of Last Best Place might seem unexpected, given that the company had sold another women’s clothing catalog, California Style, to Chinese importer SBL in July 2001. But Hjemboe says that Last Best Place “had better synergy” with the Monterey Bay house file than California Style had. Both Monterey Bay and Last Best Place target female baby boomers, ages 45 and up.

And while California Style’s best sales periods were the first and second quarters, Last Best Place has traditionally performed better during fall/holiday, Hjemboe says, leading Monterey Bay to believe that the latter has more room for growth. “We wanted to replace [California Style] with something that had potential to grow into a serious business,” she says.

So is the relaunched Last Best Place living up to Monterey Bay expectations? As of late November, the catalog was performing slightly below the company’s aggressive projections. But the parent company is taking things in stride.

“We’re treating this as a start-up business,” Hjemboe says, “and are learning what the customer wants to buy from our catalog. We expect that the response will increase as we continue to refine the merchandise offerings as well as our prospecting efforts.”

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