New day at Spice Sundance

Sundance, the catalog of southwestern-inspired furniture, apparel, and accessories, has undergone major changes in the past year. Not only did the $50 million catalog arm of the Sundance organization hire a new president, but it also redesigned its core book and spun off an apparel title.

The brainchild of actor Robert Redford, Salt Lake City-based Sundance kicked off the changes by hiring Patricia Warren as president last July. Warren had spent the three previous years as president of apparel manufacturer Cherokee, during which time sales soared from $200 million to $1 billion.

“But I really missed being in close contact with the creative process of putting the story of a company together,” Warren says. “And I bought into Redford’s vision of giving back something to the artist community by selling their products through the catalog.” The Sundance catalog, which sells merchandise by artists and craftspeople, donates 10% of its earnings to the Sundance Art Institute.

To serve that vision, Warren oversaw a catalog redesign. “The catalog started as an eclectic mix of apparel, home goods, and jewelry, and was basically pages of products with no cohesiveness,” she says. “We reorganized the flow of the merchandise so that products now work together to represent a strong statement from one category to the next.” For example, apparel and jewelry might appear on the same page, but those items are no longer included on pages that sell furniture.

Sundance also expanded its product line to include weekend apparel that appealed to buyers younger than Sundance’s core customers-women in their early 40s with an average income of $75,000. “These new products gave the catalog a different flavor, which attracted a younger female, mainly in her early 30s,” Warren says. Although she declines to say how much revenue the new products generated, they were successful enough to warrant their own book-Rural Route 3, which launched in March. The 32-page catalog mailed to 600,000 house file names and prospects as a test. A 60-page book may mail this fall, Warren says.

Prices in the Rural Route 3 catalog range from $26 for a T-shirt to $225 for a cardigan sweater-a high price point for this audience, yet typical for the traditional Sundance customer. (As of April, Sundance had more than 250,000 12-month buyers who spent an average of $150 per order.) “Part of the challenge of going after a younger demographic is figuring out the right kind of style, attitude, and price point to offer,” Warren says. “Rural Route 3 isn’t necessarily a moderately priced book, because we found that buyers of these products were willing to spend the money at the price offered.”

And while Rural Route 3 may not seem to fit in with Sundance’s mission of serving the artistic community, Warren suggests that by bolstering overall Sundance sales, the spin-off does indeed work toward the organization’s goal. “We’ll continue to add businesses and give them room to grow,” Warren says, “but we’ll still stay true to the core catalog by recognizing artists and craftspeople.”

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