Some mailers are pulling back on catalogs or ditching them altogether because of the bad economy. But Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate, which relaunched its print catalog last year after a four-year hiatus, is thrilled with the effect its catalog has had on its business.
To be sure, the St. Louis-based chocolatier started small, with an initial drop of 65,000 catalogs mailed in the St. Louis/Illinois area, according to sales maneger Dan Abel Jr. The rest went to new customers nationwide.
For one thing, the catalog increased the company’s presence outside St. Louis. “Although we had our Website, not many people knew we were there until seeing our catalog,” Abel says.
This has really has helped propel the wholesale division, he notes. “We currently have accounts in 28 states; all are within 16 months old. Many of our wholesale customers found us after paging through the catalog and finding our wholesale Website.”
The amount of orders the company shipped from 2007-2008 has tripled, “allowing us to take advantage of economies of scale by purchasing more boxes, more packing material and contracting better UPS rates, which helps us lower some overhead costs,” Abel says.
And thanks to increased call order volume from the print book, Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate was able to purchase a catalog ordering system to mainstream its ordering, Abel says. “Because of that, we have been able to keep tighter inventory control, provide better forecasting, see what products are the top sellers and how fast we can ship orders.
The merchant, which sells goods retail and wholesale, was having trouble keeping track of orders coming in from both directions, he says. “We can now combine these reports with the reports we have from our custom retail store software and see a total companywide sales chart.”
Although it is still early in the holiday season, Abel adds, “we have already seen a repeat business from catalog customers from last Christmas who are now pulling the catalog out from their drawer and re-ordering.”
For this holiday season the catalog was expanded from eight pages to 12 pages, with more products and a full-page for corporate orders. Abel says the company is going to clean up its database for more targeted holiday mailings.
“Our new catalog software will now be able to track sales not only by customer, but how many times a year do they purchase, how long it takes to purchase after receiving a new catalog, what pages of the catalog generate the most sales, side-by-side product comparisons, and so much more,” he explains.
During the slower summer months, Abel says the company was mailing about 1,000 catalogs out a month. “We have reprinted as necessary and experimented with publishing the catalog online in a PDF version for our online newsletter customers to view.”
That was part of an effort to become more “green,” he notes; “however, it has not had the same response as customers with an actual print catalog in their hands.”