Sundance, Holiday 1997

To satisfy the expectations of its target market, the Sundance catalog needs to incorporate traditional Southwestern themes and environmentally friendly values. This Gold Award winner’s success in doing so prompts one judge to declare, “Sundance has a great handle on merchandising to the concept of Sundance Canyon,” the Southwestern locale where much of the catalog was photographed. “All items are handmade and fit the image of the area and founder Robert Redford’s vision of this special place.”

Redford’s vision is found most prominently on the inside front cover in a letter to customers that explains the catalog’s eco-conscious mission, reinforcing a judge’s observation that “Sundance stands out as the real thing. Not only does Redford endorse this, but he sounds like he really cares about it.”

The judges also praise what one describes as the “uncluttered, natural, refined, yet outdoorsy” feel of the catalog spreads. The natural, candid appearance of the models, the panelists add, complements the merchandise.

Sundance’s product descriptions combine elegant, sophisticated language with extensive information on the products’ origins, materials, and background. Even simple items like chocolate truffles sport whimsical descriptions such as “One bite and you’re beguiled.” But relevant information follows immediately – in this case, “bite-sized truffles blend milk chocolate and whole roasted almonds with creamy peanut butter ganache.” For larger purchases requiring more information, Sundance gives the entire story. The $595 Mountain Lodge fireplace screen occupies two-thirds of page 6, and above the extensive product description is a brief profile of the screen’s creator.

Just as its straightforward sales approach engenders trust and forges a deep relationship with customers, Sundance’s honesty manifests itself in the customer service policies. The guarantee is direct: “If you do not feel that your purchase has worn well, aged gracefully, or lived up to your expectations, please return it to us for a prompt refund.” Its tone enhances the catalog’s down-to-earth mood and reinforces the comfort and confidence the rest of the book imparts.

With this attentive, no-nonsense customer service and homespun feel, it’s easy to forget that this catalog is produced by a fast-growing company with an aggressive direct marketing strategy and a blossoming retail presence. Its targeted merchandising and well-defined mission are more reminiscent of a niche cataloger, yet Sundance products range from furniture to apparel. By striving to capture the best aspects of smaller, more narrowly targeted catalogs, Sundance shows others how to succeed and grow without sacrificing personality or customer loyalty.

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