Not many companies can boast of owning nearly two-thirds of their market. But New York-based Sure Fit, a manufacturer/marketer of ready-made slipcovers, can — thanks to a mix of channels selling to businesses and consumers alike.
Sure Fit’s revenue last year was $220 million — not at all shabby in a $340 million market. And while the majority of Sure Fit’s revenue comes from sales to wholesale clients — which include retailers Linens ‘n Things and Macy’s and catalogers The Linen Source, Home Decorators Collection, and Brylane Home — the company’s direct-to-consumer catalog and Website pull their weight as well. Launched in April 1997, Sure Fit’s Slipcovers by Mail catalog had sales of $53 million last year. The five-year-old Website brought in another $13 million.
One might expect Sure Fit’s wholesale customers to be upset with the manufacturer for selling direct to consumers. But Sure Fit vice president of marketing Liz Mandracchia says that the catalog helps retailers by educating consumers on the benefits of slipcovers.
In fact, Sure Fit’s four seasonal catalog drops, which reach 10 million people a year, often lead to noteworthy sales gains for retail partners, Mandracchia insists. “The direct component to our business, along with advertising in decorating and mainstream magazines and with direct response TV [DRTV], is our way of expanding the category overall.”
It helps that Sure Fit’s catalog doesn’t compete on price with its resellers. “We let them run the sales, and you can find our products cheaper there,” says Mandracchia. “So neither we nor our retail clients look at our catalog business as competitive with them.”
Now seen on TV
To further promote — and sell — slipcovers, Sure Fit rolled out a DRTV campaign in January. “We knew we needed to reach new customers,” Mandracchia says, after research and census data showed that the U.S. market for ready-made slipcovers could reach $1 billion.
Sure Fit had tested its first 60-second DRTV spots on Court TV, Discovery Channel, Food Network, Fox News Network, The Learning Channel, and TNN last summer. The ads displayed a toll-free number for viewers to call to request a catalog.
“Results weren’t wildly successful, but the spots were paying for themselves and were reaching our goals of $3 per lead,” Mandracchia says. Test spots during the third and fourth quarters proved more successful.
Once the campaign was rolled out, sales of Sure Fit’s products in retail locations increased “across the board,” Mandracchia says. In addition to its 60-second spot, the company began running a two-minute DRTV spot in February. Sure Fit’s commercials have been airing on cable channels Discovery, The Learning Channel, and HGTV and on ABC’s The View program. The company plans to test network soap operas and game shows later this year. All told, Sure Fit will invest $5 million in TV advertising this year.
Sure Fit’s Wayne, PA-based DRTV advertising agency, Direct Response Media (DRM), uses media tracking and monitoring software MediaTrak to make buying decisions. “There are no Nielsen ratings for response rates,” says DRM executive vice president Cary Scottoline. “MediaTrak lets us quickly evaluate what has worked in the past, track the effectiveness of current media buys, and then constantly adjust buying to optimize the media that is working right now.”
Sure Fit is now looking into infomercials. “We’re considering how to do it, how it will drive retail traffic, and how to sell direct in that manner,” Mandracchia says. “But it will take time for us to come up with the right approach, because infomercials usually sell only a single product.