Twice as Nice

SURE, MCDONALD’S MAY BE DOWNSIZING its menu, but don’t let that fool you. When it comes to food, it’s unlikely you can have too much of a good thing. Just ask Eric Lituchy, co-owner of Delightful Deliveries, a Syosset, NY-based catalog marketer of gourmet gifts. The company made a strategic decision prior to this past holiday season that may seem counter-intuitive in this economy. It bumped up the size of its holiday catalog from 48 pages in 2002 to 80 in 2003, with a concurrent increase in the number of items from 150 to 240. And the firm sent out twice as many catalogs.

While not exactly a “double or nothing” strategy, it could be called a gutsy move — though not by Lituchy himself. He bristles at the suggestion we’re in a “lousy” economy. “I don’t think it’s a great economy,” he counters, “but I think it’s an OK economy — people just aren’t spending quite as much.” Most of the downside, he says, has been reduced spending by corporate clients and high-end consumers (though those groups are Delightful Deliveries’ bread-and-butter).

Since the company doesn’t have a warehouse or distribution center, the need to make logistical improvements didn’t hamper the catalog upgrade. “The only physical change we made was to the size of the catalog,” says Lituchy, who downplays the idea that the company did anything unusual. “It was really just sound business strategy. We added more lower-cost items, because we knew those would be big sellers, and especially at Christmas time would result in multiple sales.” That wasn’t just a guess; Lituchy explains that these items had done well on the Web site, but hadn’t previously been included in the printed catalog. “We’ve always had 1,000 to 1,200 products on the Web site,” he says. “The catalog had included about 10% of that; we brought it up to 20%.” While the cost of the catalog went up, most of that increase was due to a less favorable exchange rate with Canada, where it is printed — “so we would have faced that anyway, and it was easily covered by the increase in sales, which went up across the board.”

Delightful Deliveries operates as a middleman between suppliers and customers. Shipping is split between FedEx and UPS. “Everything is express because most of our items are perishable,” notes Lituchy, “and the nature of our business is that people tend to call for gifts at the last minute. We pay most of the shipping costs, but our prices actually went down because we negotiated a better deal with our partners.”

Customer service is handled by both phone and e-mail. Lituchy boasts that e-mail response is “within minutes” between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. (next morning after hours), with an outsourced call center kicking in live for overflow and off-hours. So what is the secret to Delightful Deliveries’ success as a distributor? “Our selection is good, and our service is credible,” says Lituchy.

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