opinion & response

Mar 15, 2002 10:30 PM  By

Somewhat Morphed at Us

I’m sure you can imagine my surprise when I saw the article “America’s Shopping Mall Morphs into Catalog Group” in the January issue, which was riddled with inaccuracies, misstatements, and damaging misleading information about my company.

To be more specific, please note that America’s Shopping Mall was foreclosed by its secured creditors and liquidated by outside sources. As part of the liquidation I did in fact offer to buy The Female Athlete and Remarkable Products titles from the bank. My offer was subject to better or higher offers from the public. The Catalog Group was formed by me after resigning from America’s Shopping Mall. I was also negotiating to buy several other titles at that time. To say that America’s Shopping Mall was morphed into Catalog Group creates an illusion of succession that is both damaging and inaccurate.

With reference to your statement that I ran into problems with financing, please be aware that the environment for financing was extremely weak in the last four months of 2001 for the entire economy. In fact, I was able to arrange financing to purchase both The Female Athlete and Remarkable Products in October 2001.
Irwin Schneidmill
chairman/CEO, Catalog Group

Thumbs Up to Green Thumb Winners

As we are now in the throes of our own awards competition (that’s the Annual Catalog Awards, but you knew that), we’d like to recognize several industry winners in another contest: the 2002 MGA Green Thumb Awards.

Presented by the Mailorder Gardening Association (MGA), the Green Thumb Awards are judged by an independent panel of garden writers and editors. In the Plants and Seeds division, the winners are: Starry Night Shrub Rose from Edmunds’ Roses, Delphinium “Merel” from Van Bourgondien, Antirrhinum ‘Debutante’ from White Flower Farm, “Cabana” Hybrid Tea Rose from Jackson & Perkins, and Syringa “Baildust” (Fairy Dust Lilac) from J.W. Jung Seed Co.

In the Tools, Supplies, and Accessories division, the winners are: Perfect Balance Custom Fertilizer from Gardens Alive!, Hot Beds from Gardener’s Supply Co., Greenwell Water Saver from Gardener’s Supply Co., Bulb Boost with Rodent Repellant from Jackson & Perkins, and Dixondale Farms Feed and Weed from Dixondale Farms. Congratulations to all — we’re green with envy!

Half-Baked Cover Concept?

According to its tagline, The Baker’s Catalogue from King Arthur Flour sells “fine tools, ingredients, equipment, and recipes for the home baker.” So why on earth does the January edition of this book depict a photo of a family cross-country skiing in the woods? The editor’s letter inside does refer to winters in northern New England, noting that “there’s nothing like a fresh-baked treat to entice family and friends out of the cold, and into the warmth of your home.…” But that’s a big leap from skiing to sifting — especially if the book went to any prospects. Judging solely by the cover, we would have sworn that the catalog sold outdoor sportswear.

Bondage. James Bondage

British luxury auto company Aston Martin — maker of suave spy James Bond’s car of choice — recently withdrew several items from its gifts catalog after parent company Ford complained about the bondage connotation of some products. It appears that one of the 4,000 recipients of the catalog was Edsel Ford, a conservative member of the founding Ford clan, who strongly disapproved of items such as silver handcuff keyrings and belts, perforated leather boxing trunks, and suede boxers. Aston Martin is reprinting the catalogs with 20 new products — presumably more-refined lifestyle gift items. So we guess the Miss Moneypenny dominatrix doll will probably not make the cut.

Punxsutawney Phil Ties One On

Talk about a celebrity cover model. For its winter 2002 edition, Middlebury VT-based bow ties cataloger Beau Ties Ltd. of Vermont features none other than Punxsutawney Phil, the shadow-seeking groundhog. (We’ll kindly ignore the fact that Phil boasts more than a passing resemblance to the gopher in the movie Caddyshack.) Having already served his purpose by seeing his shadow, ensuring six more weeks of winter for us, Phil appears to be on to the greener festivities of St. Patrick’s Day: The gentleman groundhog sports a black silk bow tie embossed with bright green shamrocks. Begorrah, now we’ve seen everything.

Sundance Rains on Shopping Parade

We know that Sundance, an offshoot of the Sundance Institute founded by actor Robert Redford, is all about the artists. But we have a bone to pick with the apparel, jewelry, decor, and gifts cataloger. As catalog shopping aficionados, we are used to browsing through home decor titles such as Pottery Barn and Ballard Designs — to name only a few — and being able to buy most any item prominently featured in a shot. So when thumbing through Sundance’s January 2002 edition, we wanted to buy the painting of a horse hung on a wall showcasing a leather sofa. Oops, only a prop. Another horse painting on a page featuring a teak console cabinet: also evidently not for sale. Above a painted iron bed, there’s an interesting cross wall sculpture, but once again, no reference to it. And the vintage Ford Galaxy acting as a backdrop for a woman modeling a goat-suede jacket — how do we purchase that? OK, we’re kidding about the car, and we do admit that most of the items are for sale, But still, there’s propping and then there’s teasing. Note to Mr. Redford & Co.: Don’t flaunt it unless you’ve got it!

CONTACT US …or visit us on the Web at www.CatalogAgemag.com

e-mail: dpluviose@primediabusiness.com

letter: PO Box 4242, Stamford, CT 06907-0242

phone: 203-358-9900

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