Tool Crib’s high-powered spin-off

Tool cataloger Tool Crib of the North began selling the DeWalt brand of professional power tools in 1992. Today, the product line represents 5% of the $30 million Tool Crib’s annual sales. Sales have been so impressive that last year the Grand Forks, ND-based cataloger teamed up with DeWalt-a division of manufacturer Black & Decker-to spin off a DeWalt catalog.

“About 10% of our buyers had bought DeWalt products from our catalog,” says Tool Crib marketing director Jim Coogan. “So we went to DeWalt, which had been asking us for exclusive catalog presence, and said that if we could keep circulation to a modest level, we could mail an exclusive DeWalt book to our buyers. DeWalt said it sounded simple and would probably work-which it did.” Coogan says response has been “nicely profitable, well above breakeven.”

To gain the best response, Tool Crib first targeted the 20,000-30,000 buyers of DeWalt products within its 500,000-name house file of buyers and requesters. And when the DeWalt book launched in spring 1998, the cataloger distributed 100,000 each of the two spring editions. For each drop, 50,000 books were inserted as package stuffers with Tool Crib catalog orders. Another 15,000 books mailed to DeWalt buyers from Tool Crib’s file, with the remaining 35,000 catalogs mailed to non-DeWalt Tool Crib buyers.

Tool Crib distributed 200,000 more books in the same pattern last fall, as well as this spring. Because many of the catalog recipients are also zero- to three-month buyers, the mailings overlapped with some of the package-stuffer catalogs. “But since these are by far our most responsive group, we find that overlapping catalogs is not only acceptable, but desirable; we want them to get our catalogs frequently because they buy from us the most frequently,” Coogan says.

The previous DeWalt tool buyers outpulled non-DeWalt buyers “by something like three to one,” Coogan says, “which is no great surprise. But the non-DeWalt buyers responded profitably too.” And even the least-responsive segment-six- to 12-month Tool Crib buyers who had not bought DeWalt products-performed above breakeven.

But the spin-off’s primary advantage is bringing new DeWalt products to the customers most interested in buying them, Coogan says. “That’s the big thing about the DeWalt catalog: its ability to effectively introduce new products to a core group of DeWalt loyalists.”

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