SPIN-OFFS

Fisher-Price gets dressed Toy manufacturer/mailer launches apparel book Hoping to clothe the kids who play with its toys, Fisher-Price mailed more than 1 million copies of a 32-page apparel catalog in August.

The Clothes for Little People book sells apparel for newborns, toddlers, and preschoolers. Prices range from $9.50 for floral print tights to $49.50 for down bib overalls. While Fisher-Price, which is owned by toy giant Mattel, would not release any numbers on the new catalog’s sales or circulation, it plans to mail the book four times a year.

Measuring 8-1/4″ x 8-1/4″, Clothes for Little People has a smaller trim size than the Fisher-Price toy catalog (10-1/4″ x 10-1/4″), says Ken Wine, director of merchandising for Mattel Direct. The title is being mailed both inside the toy book and as a stand-alone.

Mattel decided that the print catalog (and a Web version on its site) would be the best way to market the new apparel line. For now, the company does not plan to sell the clothing in stores. The catalog is produced by Mattel Direct, but another Mattel division – Middleton, WI-based The Pleasant Co., which produces the American Girl catalog – is handling fulfullment for the clothing catalog.

The Fisher-Price apparel is merchandised by the same creative team that merchandises the toys, and the company is betting that a consistent brand image and high-quality standards will make the clothing line a hit with customers. For example, rather than printed stripes on shirts, Fisher-Price opted for yarn-dyed stripes for better wearability and less fading. “Just as the Fisher-Price toys have a legacy of being passed on to other children, we hope the clothing will be handed down from child to child,” Wine says.

…with Garges Purtee Garges Purtee is president of Porto Banus, a Marietta, GA-based women’s apparel catalog.

Where did you grow up? Atlanta.

What college did you attend?

I graduated from Southern Methodist University in 1973 with a major in journalism and a minor in marketing.

What was your first job out of college?

A buyer management trainee at Titche-Goettinger (now Dillard’s) in Dallas.

How did you get into the catalog business?

In 1975 I answered an ad for a fashion buyer for The Tog Shop, and I was hired during the first interview.

Which catalog do you most admire, and why?

Coldwater Creek. Even with the onslaught of the copycats, [founder] Dennis Pence has created a strong market identity.

Which catalogs do you shop from?

When I’m not shopping from Porto Banus, I shop with Coldwater Creek, Bloomingdale’s by Mail, California Style, and Nordstrom.

What’s your biggest worry in life?

Finding enough hours in the day to accomplish all that needs to occur.

What destination (that you have yet to visit) would you most like to travel to?

Phuket, Thailand.

If you could change one thing about the catalog business, what would it be, and how would you do it?

I would lower postage and paper prices. As far as how I would do it, let me know if you find a way!

Whom in the catalog industry do you most admire, and why?

Don Mokrynski of the list firm Mokrynski & Associates. I have known him since I started the A.B. Lambdin swim and resortwear catalog, and he has never failed to offer insight or advice – no matter what the topic.

What is the best book you have ever read? The Celestine Prophesy.

Who is your favorite cartoon character?

I used to love reading Archie and Veronica.

What is your secret obsession?

I love going to the spa and just being pampered for a day.

Who is your favorite musical artist?

I like a variety from LaBouche to Maxi Priest to Ricky Martin.

If you could trade places with someone for a day, who would you be?

Oprah.

How do you take your coffee? I don’t, but I love Diet Coke.

Window or aisle seat? Window.

Visa U.S.A., the San Francisco-based U.S division of the worldwide credit card company, has issued a series of guidelines instructing online merchants and Internet service providers (ISPs) how to protect cardholder information and online databases. The guidelines – dubbed the Cardholder Information Security Program – consists of 12 requirements for protecting Visa cardholder information.

Previously, the guidelines were merely security recommendations for Visa’s online merchants. Starting in the fourth quarter of 2000, however, the guidelines will become mandatory for ISPs assisting Visa transactions, while online marketers will be required to follow the guidelines by the end of 2001.

Under the 12 guidelines of the Cardholder Information Security Program, companies are required to:

1. Install and maintain a network firewall to protect data accessible via the Internet.

2. Keep security patches up to date.

3. Encrypt stored data.

4. Encrypt any data sent across networks.

5. Use and regularly update antivirus software.

6. Restrict employee access to cardholder data unless the information is pertinent to employees’ work.

7. Assign a unique ID to each person with computer access to data.

8. Refrain from using vendor-supplied defaults for system passwords and other security parameters.

9. Track access to data by unique ID.

10. Regularly test the security system and processes.

11. Maintain a policy that addresses information security for employees and contractors.

12. Restrict physical access to cardholder information.

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SPIN-OFFS

Retailer J. Baker was looking for more than growth when it acquired cataloger/retailer Repp Big and Tall last May. The Canton, MA-based company also expected the acquisition to provide access to the direct marketing arena. Now the $665 million company plans to spin off an additional catalog and Website, with the goal of dominating the specialty-size catalog and online apparel marketplace within five years.

The Repp acquisition brought J. Baker’s store count to 584 from 454. But the Repp by Mail catalog, along with its sister title, Essentials, and the Repp by Net Website, represented the most significant elements of the deal, says CEO Alan Weinstein. “When we acquired Repp, it changed our view of what we would be in this market.”

Leveraging the mail order experience of the Repp team and the brand name of its Casual Male retail chain, J. Baker launched the Casual Male Big & Tall catalog in late March. The names for the launch, which total several million, came from the stores’ customer files, the Repp by Mail database, and the company’s acquisition efforts, which included space ads.

The Casual Mail catalog will supplant the Essentials catalog, but it won’t compete with the core Repp by Mail book, explains Repp president Bobby Yarbrough. “We were looking to develop a catalog with more competitive price points. We had developed Essentials as a moderately priced offering, and we decided it fit better with the Casual Male concept.” Repp by Mail will continue to offer what Yarbrough describes as higher-priced, label-driven sportswear lines.

The Casual Male Website, scheduled to launch early this summer, will operate separately from the Repp site. Although the Web operations aren’t yet integrated into the catalog and retail arms, Weinstein vows to make the brand “seamless” to the customer, so that sales and returns can occur in all the channels.

Large share of a narrow niche

The specialty-size men’s apparel market “is a narrow, niche market consisting of 10% of the male population,” says Weinstein, who estimates the total marketplace at $5 billion-$6 billion. “We want them all, whether they want moderately priced or high end merchandise. We want to own 20% of the market in three to five years. So we want to satisfy this customer at every level.”

And while Weinstein expects to nearly double the number of Repp and Casual Male stores it has to 1,000 over the next three to five years, “we see much greater growth potential in direct mail and e-commerce.” According to Weinstein, Repp’s catalog and Website make it the third largest direct marketer of specialty-size menswear, behind Brylane and J.C. Penney. “We want to be the largest cataloger in this niche, and to do that we have to increase direct sales to more than $100 million in the next five years – about three times our current size.” (In addition to Casual Male and Repp, J. Baker includes the Work ‘n Gear business apparel stores.)

To accommodate such growth, the company is building a new call center and distribution center near Atlanta. “The old facility was 69,000 sq. ft. – big enough to allow us to reach $50 million-$60 million in sales. This one will be 135,000-140,000 sq. ft.,” Weinstein says. The company plans to occupy the new facility by June 1.

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SPIN-OFFS

Think of Hanover Direct’s newest title, Encore, as a “greatest hits” catalog. The book, which launched in August, sells products from eight of Hanover’s 13 other catalogs, including housewares book Domestications, upscale gifts title Gump’s by Mail, and plus-size women’s apparel catalog Silhouettes.

According to Richard Hoffman, president/COO of the company’s $546.1 million Hanover Brands catalog division, one purpose of Encore is to cross-prospect among Hanover’s 14 million 12-month buyers. For instance, a customer who has bought only linens from Domestications may find in Encore a home maintenance item from the Improvements Catalog.

“We also see Encore as a way to reintroduce those who have not purchased for 24 or 36 months,” Hoffman says, adding that Hanover has mailed the catalog to rented names as a prospecting tool as well.

While Hoffman won’t disclose exact mailing quantities or results, he says the company is mailing “in the millions” of Encore catalogs, and that the average order size is in line with the composite average order of the other Hanover titles. Response rates are “equal to or above” the response that Hanover has achieved using co-op databases and other prospecting methods, he says. According to Hanover Direct CEO Rakesh Kaul, “We were very surprised at the success of this book. Encore has generated top-line growth via new customers.”

Encore’s success is encouraging Hanover Direct to expand the title. The company plans to offer space in the book to the 18 clients of its Keystone Fulfillment division, which include L.L. Knickerbocker Co. and United Retail Group.

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