Walter Drake lends a hand

Aug 01, 1998 9:30 PM  By

A year after acquiring the Walter Drake catalog of personalized gifts, Foster & Gallagher (F&G) is using the title to boost sales of and supply merchandise to some of its sister catalogs. “This is the first case I know of where the definition of synergism is really happening,” says Jon Holmquist, president/CEO of F&G’s $200 million Michigan Bulb Group of gardening catalogs.

The $476 million F&G is cross-mailing Walter Drake and several of its other catalogs, hoping to expand each title’s customer base as well as revenue. This spring, Michigan Bulb mailed its healthcare products catalog, Personal Comforts, to Walter Drake customers. And Walter Drake mailed its Home Marketplace catalog of home cleaning, safety, and organizational products under the Spring Hill name to that gardening catalog’s house file. These mailings followed a test of Walter Drake’s Christmas catalog to Michigan Bulb customers under the “Michigan Bulb presents…” banner.

Both Walter Drake and Michigan Bulb target middle-income females with an average age of 55. The Spring Hill catalog mails to a slightly higher-income customer, according to Holmquist.

“Because our horticulture business is typically over after October, we’re now able to fill in the gaps in our mailing schedule,” Holmquist says, by sending catalogs of non-gardening merchandise to its house file.

Personalized attention F&G’s gardening catalogs aren’t its only books to have benefited from the company’s March 1997 acquisition of Walter Drake. HearthSong, Childcraft, and Troll Learn & Play, three titles within F&G’s $65 million Children’s Group, now sell personalized Walter Drake products in their books.

“One of the key reasons we bought Walter Drake was because of its personalization capabilities,” says Jon Medved, president of F&G’s $80 million Gift Group, which includes Walter Drake. “The idea was to bring those capabilities to the other catalog titles.” While the Walter Drake catalog sells personalized pens and deskpads, for instance, the children’s products catalogs are creating unique stationery sets for their specific audiences.

“We can give other Foster & Gallagher catalogs new products,” Medved says. “In turn, they give us added business.”