Wine.com, eBags See Fit to Print

Further bolstering the theory that two channels are better than one, two more Web pure-plays have launched print catalogs. Handbags and luggage marketer eBags, which debuted online in March 1999, mailed a 32-page catalog to 250,000 recipients in November. And Wine.com, which debuted online in January 1994 as Virtual Vineyards, mailed about 220,000 copies of its first print catalog the first week in November.

About 80% of the eBags catalogs mailed to customers, and the rest to prospects. “In three years, we’ve shipped more than 1.5 million bags, so we’ve got a lot customers out there,” says Peter Cobb, vice president of the Greenwood Village, CO-based company. For the holiday season, “we wanted to let them know that we have more than 7,000 products on our Website,” Cobb says. The company is also using the book to introduce some new products, such as padded backpacks, Tignanello leather goods, and Optima luggage.

San Francisco-based Wine.com mailed its 16-page book primarily to prospects. Positioning itself as a source for corporate gifts, the marketer of wines and wine accessories rented names of law firms, mortgage brokers, dentists, and purchasing managers in large corporations, says president/CEO Peter Ekman. About 70,000 of the catalogs were mailed to Wine.com gift recipients of the past 13 months.

“I don’t think many online business can reach their potential” focusing exclusively on Web sales, Ekman says. “There needs to be something that supports the Web business, such as a catalog or traditional brick-and-mortar stores.” Wine.com, like eBags, has no immediate plans to venture into retail.

Not a big stretch

Indeed, with the copy, the creative, and the fulfillment infrastructure already in place, neither eBags nor Wine.com found expanding into print catalogs much of a stretch. “From the very beginning, we saw ourselves as direct marketers,” eBags’ Cobb says. “It’s all about having touch points with the consumer. There are people who like to sit in the convenience of their homes and page through a catalog.”

Looking ahead, Cobb expects to mail a second catalog edition in late April, in time for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and graduations. So far, he’s pleased with the effects of the first catalog mailing: eBags’ total company sales for the first two weeks of November were up 84% from the same period of 2001.

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