New start for Right Start catalog

Two years after exiting the catalog business, babies’ apparel and accessories The Right Start is back in the mail. The Calabasas, CA-based company was scheduled to mail a 36-page catalog the first week of October to an undisclosed number of recipients, 15%-18% of whom were Right Start retail and online customers.

The fall mailing enables Right Start to retest the catalog waters and gear up for a larger spring drop. “We’re more than dipping our toes in; we’re up to our ankles,” says Hope Neiman, senior vice president of marketing and strategy. “We will come back taking the lessons we learned since we were dark and refining them in more-significant ways than we did for this first time.”

Founded more than 20 years ago as a cataloger/retailer specializing in products and educational toys for infants and young children, The Right Start acquired toy retailers Zany Brainy (in 2001) and FAO Schwarz (in 2002), adopting the FAO corporate moniker. The company folded the Right Start catalog in 2003 — the same year FAO filed (twice) for bankruptcy — after Los Angeles-based private equity firm Hancock Park Associates bought Right Start’s 34 stores and Web business. During the past year Right Start has opened three more stores and plans to launch additional ones in the next 12 months. Earlier this year it restarted its Web business after spending six months offline.

Both the catalog and the Website feature a new logo designed to look fresher and more contemporary. Once known for being an innovator among merchants of supplies for babies and their families, says Neiman, Right Start is returning to its roots with an engaging catalog design and editorial features such as advice about child-proofing a home.

Website changes include a live help feature and back-end improvements to the shopping cart to make it run more smoothly. During the next six months, Neiman says, the company will add a new navigation system, a simplified product comparison function, and other features to the site.

Although the multichannel market has evolved since The Right Start last mailed a catalog, Neiman says a lot of “brain power from the old regime” is still involved at the company. It plans to drop a spring Right Start catalog to double or triple the number of customers and prospects it mailed to this fall.

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