Alsto’s joins HSN catalog stable

Highland Park, IL-based Dick Blick Holdings wasn’t seeking to divest its Alsto’s catalog and Web business. But it nonetheless decided in November to sell the unit to HSN Improvements, the direct subsidiary of cable shopping network HSN.

The core business of Dick Blick Holdings is selling art supplies via stores, catalogs, and the Internet. Alsto’s, which accounted for a minority of Dick Blick sales, sells garden accessories and housewares. It was hard to focus on the core art-supplies business “and at the same time concentrate on something so completely different from a product line perspective,” says Dick Blick CEO Robert Buchsbaum. “We just didn’t see there being enough synergy between the customers of Alsto’s and of our Dick Blick business to merit keeping Alsto’s.”

But HSN, which owns the Improvements and Home Focus catalogs, did see a synergy between its customers and those of Alsto’s. “We have for quite some time now had a number of catalogs on a target list, and Alsto’s is just one of those businesses,” says Ken Ellingsen, president of St. Petersburg, FL-based HSN Catalog Services. “It’s a well-known business, it was run well, and it has a merchandise mix that is slightly different than Improvements’.” Outdoor decorative products and furniture are Alsto’s strongest product categories, Ellingsen says, whereas Improvements is best known for indoor storage, cleaning, and houseware items.

The titles have similar target audiences. Alsto’s nearly 115,000 12-month buyers are primarily married women homeowners with an average household income of $100,000; the average order size is $140. Improvements’ more than 955,000 12-month buyers and Home Focus’s nearly 57,000 12-month buyers are primarily married women homeowners with an average household income of at least $70,000; they spend on average more than $50 an order.

Dick Blick is still interested in acquiring other companies, if they are in line with its core product, Buchsbaum says. The company in July bought retail chain The Art Store out of bankruptcy, increasing to 34 the number of stores Dick Blick operates nationwide.

HSN, too, is always on the lookout for catalogs to buy, Ellingsen says: “We are looking for catalog companies that fit our overall strategy of providing another venue for not only the Improvements customer and the Home Focus customer, but also the HSN customer.”

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