Walter Drake Launches Outdoors Spin-off

Walter Drake is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, but the old dog has at least a few new tricks—or new catalog titles—in it. In February the housewares and gifts mailer introduced its latest spin-off, Sundial. It follows last year’s launch of another spin-off, Walter Drake’s Easy Comforts.

Joel Shattuck, manager of merchandising and creative services at Colorado Springs, CO-based Walter Drake, says that Sundial is the result of several strategic planning meetings targeting new business opportunities. The 52-page catalog focuses on outdoor living, gardening, and pet products.

“We found we have a lot of customers in our database buying outdoor products and outdoor living items from other companies,” Shattuck explains. “We decided, They’re our customers, and let’s find a way to get the products they want in front of them.”

From conception to launch took about nine months. The company will drop another edition in the fall, which Shattuck says will in effect be “a whole new test because we’re going into fall cleanup time and holiday items.”

Early response to Sundial bodes well for the future, Shattuck says. “We feel we’ve got a great opportunity for a truly seasonal catalog, and Walter Drake hasn’t been traditionally seasonal in the past. We’re very pleased with the results and certainly going to look to next spring with a more aggressive approach.”

Walter Drake’s other recent spin-off, Easy Comforts, was originally called Directions. Tested in the summer of 2005 and launched last year, Easy Comforts sells ease-of-living products and health and beauty aids for seniors. Walter Drake also mails HomeWares and The Home Marketplace.

Greenwich, CT-based multichannel marketer Blyth bought Walter Drake in 2004 for $53 million. Ten months before that acquisition, Blyth had acquired Drake competitor Miles Kimball. In addition to its titular catalog—which like the core Walter Drake sells low-end gifts, housewares, and stationery—Miles Kimball produces the Exposure catalog of photo albums and frames. Miles Kimball has launched two spin-offs during the past year as well: Mrs. Kimball’s Candy Shoppe in the fall, and Serenity Falls, a memorial/religious catalog, this spring.

Are more spin-offs in the works? “This is a corporate-wide effort to take a look at specific categories within our company and ask ourselves if this category can be a catalog,” Shattuck says. “We’re looking for ways to grow.”

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