Under the Canopy returns

Just months after its launch in 1998, Under the Canopy was forced to shelve its print book and sell solely online. But three years later, the catalog of apparel made from organic fibers has returned.

Cofounder/owner Marci Zaroff relaunched the title with a mailing of 150,000-175,000 books in March. Another drop of roughly the same size mailed this month, and a third is scheduled for June. Ninety percent of the mailings went to prospects, with the rest to requesters and Web buyers.

After test mailings in 1997, Under the Canopy launched in August ’98, mailing to 300,000 rented names. The Boca Raton, FL-based company hired a third-party fulfillment company to handle its back-end operations, which Zaroff says proved to be a mistake. “By the second day when we were making calls to test the CSRs, we realized we had a problem,” she says. The fulfillment company’s computer system “was untested and unable to perform basic fulfillment functions, such as order-taking and stock status.”

Cash flow problems resulting from unfulfilled orders nearly caused Under the Canopy to go under, Zaroff says. But she moved the struggling company into her home, and with a staff of two, a loyal customer following, and mentions in magazines such as “Lucky,” “Vegetarian Times,” and “Natural Health,” Under the Canopy did manage to generate Web inquiries and new buyers.

So far, catalog sales are 50% higher than Zaroff had expected, and the $170 average order is better than expectations as well. Next year, Zaroff plans to increase its circulation, product offering, and page counts.

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