In only its second year of business,
$10 million home office supplies cataloger T. Shipley has turned a profit. And the Maitland, FL-based company gives much of the credit to cobranding programs with such well-known partners as Spiegel, Visa, and MasterCard.
T. Shipley, which sells products such as bookcases, desk sets, and briefcases, saw its fall/holiday sales triple from the previous year, beating plan by more than 35% on a 20% circulation increase, says CEO/co-owner Tom Shipley, who founded the company in January 1999. Shipley says that consumer concerns about a slowing economy actually worked in T. Shipley’s favor, because people looked for more practical holiday gifts rather than the frivolous.
The cataloger also saw an explosion in its sales of corporate gifts, which rose from 5% of sales in ’99 to 12% this year, Shipley says. In all, the holiday order crush caught the cataloger somewhat off guard. We were focusing on profitability rather than growth, Shipley says, noting that the company was not prepared for the significant sales increase. Two of the cataloger’s products were on backorder until after the holidays, but for the most part the company was able to meet customer demand.
Profiting from joint efforts
As part of its promotional efforts, T. Shipley partnered with credit card giants MasterCard and Visa. The cataloger’s product offers appeared on the companies’ bill stuffers. T. Shipley also displayed its wares on the pages of in-flight co-op catalog SkyMall. Both deals helped boost sales, Shipley says, because people felt more comfortable with us, since we had more visibility.
And in a deal with general merchandise cataloger Spiegel that launched in December, T. Shipley mailed to an undisclosed number of Spiegel customers a 64-page book with a Presented by Spiegel logo on the cover. (T. Shipley buyers did not receive the Spiegel-branded catalog.) About 10% of T. Shipley’s total fall/holiday circulation mailed to names from Spiegel’s house file.
In exchange, Spiegel takes an undisclosed percentage of all sales from the cobranded Shipley books. Spiegel, in fact, has participated in similar joint-branding programs for 15 years. The Downers Grove, IL-based multititle cataloger has previously emblazoned its name on the covers of Magellan’s, Petals, and CCB Paris catalogs, among others, says director of business development and promotions Scott Weiler.
For T. Shipley, the program blew away our highest forecast, says vice president of marketing Shawn Mielke, so we will roll it out this year. Using the Spiegel name on the cover gives us an endorsement and a new customer base. It appears that Spiegel’s customer is the right match for us. This spring T. Shipley products will also be featured in an area of Spiegel’s Website.
In another partnership, this past October T. Shipley began running in its catalog four pages from mobile technology products marketer iGo. In addition, both companies have been enclosing the other’s catalogs as package inserts. Although Mielke didn’t have results to report at press time, he says both T. Shipley and iGo plan to expand their partnership in some form or another during the next several months.
The advantage we have in forming these partnerships, Mielke says, is that we’re a young company but [with] seasoned marketers. And given the strong sales that have resulted from such partnerships, Mielke adds, T. Shipley is open to participating in additional ones: We can look right at the return on investment and quickly implement these types of things.
For the most up-to-date industry news, check out Catalog Age online at www.CatalogAgemag.com. n You can also register online to receive Catalog Age Weekly delivered to your desktop every Thursday morning.