Reader’s Digest American Made: Not for Patriots Only

Every now and then, a catalog marketer will try to buck the conventional wisdom—not at all a bad thing. Phil Minix, senior vice president of catalogs for Greendale, WI-based Reiman Publications, a division of Reader’s Digest, recently made one such attempt.

With the March launch of the 48-page general merchandise catalog, Reader’s Digest American Made (rdamericanmade.com), Minix dropped 30,000 catalogs to non-catalog buyers. He pulled names from nontraditional lists of disabled veteran groups, NASCAR enthusiasts, religious groups, and the Democratic and Republican national committees, convinced that these patriotic consumers would buy from a catalog that sold only items made in the USA.

“We got a little arrogant when we did the test,” Minix says. “We decided that if there was one concept that could turn non-catalog buyers into catalog buyers, this would be it.”

Well, it wasn’t. The test was considered a failure.

“I think it proved that it’s pretty much impossible, and expensive, to try to convert non-catalog buyers, even if it seems to be a sure thing,” Minix says.

The non-catalog buyer test names made up just a fraction of the 1 million names mailed on March 15. The vast majority of the mailing went to house file names, including customers of Reiman’s Country Store catalog and subscribers of magazines published by Reiman who are not Country Store shoppers.

Based on the results of the nontraditional test mailing, Minix says the company will drop 2.5 million-3.5 million fall catalogs instead of its originally anticipated 4 million. The plan after that is to drop two catalogs in spring 2007 and three in fall 2007.

Though the catalog has a patriotic section, Minix said the catalog was not designed to target flag-waiving Americans. Other merchandise categories include kitchen, outdoors, home, entertainment, apparel, and food. Products range from braided rugs to Wisconsin-made pecan kringle, from gingham dresses to glass cleaner.

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Reader’s Digest to acquire Reiman Publications, catalog

Reader’s Digest Association, which in addition to its magazines, books, and direct marketing businesses operates the Good Catalog, Good Finds, and Gifts.com catalogs, announced on March 22 that it had agreed to buy Greendale, WI-based publisher/cataloger
Reiman Publicationsfor $760 million from its owner, Chicago-based Madison Dearborn Partners.

Reiman operates Country Store, a $20 million-plus catalog business that mails 7 million books a year and distributes more than 60 million miniature catalogs by polybagging them with most of its magazines. The deal is expected to close in May, according to Reader’s Digest spokesperson Bill Adler. The two businesses will explore myriad synergies, Adler says. The companie’ databases have a 19% overlap, the New York-based investment banking firm Gruppo Levey—which represented Reiman and Madison Dearborn in the deal—tells Direct Newsline.

But Adler notes that Reader’s Digest has no intentions of closing down or merging any offices—that Country Store catalog will continue to operate independently rather than come under the Gifts.com wing. “The concept is to keep the companies running independently as they have been, not to blend them,” Adler says. “Our synergies will come from building bridges, not combining staffs or combining any of the properties.”

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