Teen apparel retailer The Wet Seal is following the adage “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” The Foothill Ranch, CA-based company, which launched a catalog business in 1998 and discontinued it in 1999, will relaunch the catalog in July.
The Wet Seal brand has come full circle, making the time right for the catalog’s return, says Steve Strickland, senior vice president for marketing and creative. Two years ago, Wet Seal renamed its catalog and Website Blue Asphalt after its private-label apparel brand. But the name change “proved disastrous,” says Strickland, who left gadgets and tools cataloger/retailer Brookstone in 2000 to join Wet Seal.
“The catalog business became weak,” Strickland says, “and our merchants wanted to focus on the merchandise assortment for the stores and not worry about the catalog.” The book was discontinued. The company changed the name of the Blue Asphalt Website, which it continued to operate, back to Wet Seal that year.
But the revived catalog, Strickland says, “can be a profit center while supporting the marketing of the brand. It can also be used to test where we need more retail presence.” Net sales for the company’s fiscal year ended Feb. 2 were $601.9 million, up more than 5% from $571.4 million the previous year.
The first mailing of the new 24-page Wet Seal book will go to 1.25 million “women who love fashion and want it at a fair price,” Strickland says. The target audience ranges in age from 15 to 40, with an average household income of $50,000-plus. A holiday mailing will go to 2 million consumers. More than 60% of the books will be mailed to names from Wet Seal’s database of retail customers, previous catalog buyers, and requesters. The remainder will be mailed to cold prospects from rental lists. Next year, Wet Seal plans to produce four editions of the catalog.
Although it will be a true mail order sales vehicle, the book will resemble a fashion magazine, with fashion advice columns and editorial on entertainers featured in the new Seal TV programs. These will be broadcast in Wet Seal’s more than 500 mall stores in 42 states. Strickland says he has yet to determine the product density of the book or the percentage of products that will be catalog exclusives.