Small Catalogs Forum: Dancing Dragon

Dancing Dragon: A Niche Catches Fire

Thanks to the buzz about Harry Potter and the upcoming film version of Lord of the Rings, dragons are hot and likely to get hotter. That’s good news for $1.6 million Dancing Dragon, which has been selling such products as dragon figurines and dragon-embossed mugs and CD holders by catalog since 1987 and on the Web since 1996. Founded out of a garage, Arcata, CA-based Dancing Dragon is still owned by a mysterious dragon enthusiast who prefers to remain anonymous, says president Michelle Moon.

The catalog has grown from an eight-page, two-color mailer to a 48-page (in holiday) full-color book. Circulation has increased from 10,000 in 1987 (to requesters who sent in $2 in response to space ads in alternative magazines) to 450,000. The company rarely prospects, Moon says, because dragon enthusiasts are such a specialized niche that traditional list rentals do not work. But the company experimented with cooperative database Abacus and plans to work with a co-op again this year. Dancing Dragon also participates in commission-based Internet aggregator site and takes requests that come from Net mall

What is most surprising about the catalog is that 40% of its orders still come in via mail, while phone orders account for 31% and the Web for 29%. Catalog response rates were 4.47% from the summer edition, Moon says, and 5.85% from the holiday book; the average order is $65.

Cutting page counts has not slayed this dragon’s steady growth. The mailer has seen healthy sales increases even after reducing its page count last year from 52 pages to 40-48 because the product assortment had become too large for the size of the operation. The catalog also cut circulation almost in half last year, Moon says, yet sales continued to increase: We saw that the core portion of our house file was supporting us, so we opted to cut costs, and we sustained the same sales growth as we had in the past. Looks like Puff isn’t the only magic dragon.

Dancing Dragon

Founded: 1987

Annual sales: $1.6 million

Annual circulation: 450,000

Number of pages: 40-48

Trim size: 8-1/4″ 5-1/4″


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