Small Catalogs Forum: Management Software That Fits

When it comes to selecting catalog management software (CMS), small mailers tend to choose the most basic package in order to keep costs down.

But such a strategy may be penny wise but pound foolish. “Most small catalogers should invest more money into software and systems than they think they need at the time,” says Southampton, PA-based operations consultant Ernie Schell. Doing so should provide them with a system that can grow with their business.

Centerbrook, CT-based multititle mailer Catalog Resource Team (CRT), whose titles include gifts catalogs Nurse’s Station and Whales & Friends, had an eye on the long term when it began looking for a new CMS in early 1999. CRT wanted a system that it could keep in place for a minimum of 10 years.

Owner Tom Romano, realizing the amount of research ahead of him, teamed up with fellow small cataloger, Old Saybrook, CT-based rock-and-roll merchandise mailer Old Glory, to meet with CMS providers. Like CRT, Old Glory wanted a system that would grow with it during the next 8-12 years. The cataloger also wanted software with improved sales projection capabilities and inventory control.

“Our old system was lacking the sophistication and the resources for user support that we’ll need in the next 10 years,” says Old Glory marketing director Stephen Schofield.

After researching packages and holding briefings with one another, in April 1999 both catalogers chose software from Smith-Gardner (now Ecometry). CRT spent $127,000 for MACS II, and Romano says he has already seen increased efficiency. For one thing, orders can be processed and packed within two hours, as opposed to the three-and-a-half hours it used to take. The time savings eliminates the need to pay overtime. The system also alerts the cataloger when it needs to move inventory from its secondary warehouse location to the primary area.

“Another factor when considering the expense [of a system] is the training time,” says Romano. It took about 18 months for the company to fully adjust to the new management system. “We wouldn’t want to go through this adjustment period every few years,” he adds.

Short Sizes, a cataloger of men’s specialty-size apparel, has been using the same CMS for nearly 10 years. Bob Stern, owner of the Cleveland-based catalog, spent about $50,000 on Act I with a Unix platform, “which at the time, was most cost effective for our needs.”

Stern has not opted for customization or upgrade packages. In fact, he plans to spend only $1,000 a year on minimal upgrades for the system. “I know that we would need some major modifications, such as a way to link our Website, to upgrade the whole system,” says Stern.

Sizing up systems

Many CMS now cater to smaller companies with more systems that can be customized and upgraded as needed, says Richmond, VA-based catalog operations consultant Curt Barry. “Initially, many start-ups use the shrink-wrapped packages, but if you have an aggressive plan, it can stunt your company’s growth.”

Barry says that companies with annual sales of less than $1 million can adopt systems from providers such as Dydacomp, Colinear, Morgan Customsoft, and Ecometry (NT version). For 15 users, or terminals, these packages cost about $5,000-$20,000. For catalogers with sales of up to $10 million, he suggests systems from ASTI, Avexxis, Datamann, Morse Data, Page Digital, and Terno and Associates are viable options, costing $50,000-$60,000 for approximately 15 users.

And if you expect to leap beyond the $10 million mark in sales during the next few years, Barry suggests that more-comprehensive systems from providers including Caynta, Marshall Wear, Computer Solutions, Sigma Micro, and Ecometry (MACS II), which cost more than $80,000, may be your best bet.

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