Strong Season for School Supplies Mailer Raymond Geddes

So far it’s been a frosty fall in terms of consumer spending. But wholesale school supplies and back to school gear cataloger Raymond Geddes is having a good season, with sales up about 10% over last year.

“Our fall sales are up over budget and last year for the first time in a while,” says Laura Bruck, vice president of marketing and customer relations. What’s the secret to Geddes’ success? “We have been making a quite a few adjustments in our product mix, mail plan, and so on, and I like to think those things are all paying off.”

For instance, she notes, Raymond Geddes increased its prospecting by as much as 50%. How was it able to do this? Like many mailers seeking to offset rising postage and paper costs, the company moved to a letter size or slim-jim catalog format.

“We tested it for the first time in the spring and didn’t see any adverse affect,” although sales were flat, Bruck says. “So we have continued using this format, other than our master catalog, which is released in August.” The company mails slim-jim supplements from September through April.

While its Web efforts have always been driven by the catalog, since July Raymond Geddes has also been working on optimizing its search engine results. “We have seen a 128% increase in new visitors to the site,” Bruck says. The cataloger just started measuring the conversion rate of those visitors, “but given our increase in sales, I believe a portion is coming from this increased visibility,” Bruck notes. In the past the company’s business was split 60% catalog and 40% Web. “But this fall those numbers have switched–at least 60% of our business is coming in via the Web.”

Raymond Geddes also used a free gift offer of a rolling cart in September. This helped to increase its $175 average order size, as customers had to spend more than $250 to get the free cart. What’s more, Bruck says, “we had to increase our prices and shipping charges this fall, and have not had an adverse effect from that.”

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