If we had a nickel for every time a Catalog Age staffer spouted off an idea for a new catalog, we’d have practically enough money to buy a new coffee machin e. (And we could use one.)
But instead of hoarding our brilliant concepts, we’ve decided to share the wealth with our loyal readers. Below, our ideas for catalog start-ups, coming soon to a kitchen table near you. And shortly thereafter, to be acquired by International Cornerstone or Fingerhut. Warning: Don’t even think of stealing any of these ideas-at least not without hiring us to be “consultants.”
Sherry Chiger, senior managing editor All Things Icelandic, a catalog of-well, stuff from Iceland-is an idea whose time has come. There are catalogs specializing in Irish products, Scottish goods, and German items, but oddly enough, not one that sells only Icelandic merchandise.
And the product range is broad. In addition to the fabled wool sweaters, Iceland produces fabulous food gifts. Also, Iceland abounds in lava fields, and you’d be surprised at the items that clever craftsmen can make out of it (lava lamps, anyone?).
Finally, All Things Icelandic would require me to source goods in Iceland. Sure, Paris is romantic, and Florence is inspiring, but all things considered, I’ll take Reykjavik (and no, I’m not joking).
Melissa Dowling, features editor Despite The Gap’s best advertising efforts, there really isn’t enough khaki in the world today. Sure, if you want cargo pants, drawstring skirts, and other trendy clothing, you’ll find plenty of khaki. But I think it’s time khaki came out of the closet. For my catalog, tentatively titled Khaki Shack, I plan to use the muted gray/green/tan canvasy cotton for functional and decorative home products. Slipcovers, pot holders, picture frames, Christmas stockings-you name it, and I’ll make it out of or cover it with khaki. And, I hope, sell it for lots of money.
Paul Miller, senior news writer I plan to launch a catalog of “antique” computers, video game players, typewriters, and calculators. I’ll call it E-Crap, and nothing will be priced above $30 (would you pay more for a Commodore computer?). I’ll rummage through every corporate dumpster (especially ours), landfill, attic, tag sale, and flea market I can, until I have a full stock of old Ataris, Smith-Coronas, Casio calculators, and of course, Commodores.
Shannon Oberndorf, writer/Website coordinator Traveling to numerous trade shows a year, I’ve collected tons of exhibitors’ giveaways (pens, buttons, clips, etc.-we can’t accept anything “valuable”). The explosion of online auctions made me realize that these items could help me make money without spending any. Hence, the launch of Promo Tchotchke.com, selling logoed pens, keychains, magnets, tote bags-all categorized by trade event. By the way, Promo Tchotchke.com will go public in six months-even if it makes a profit.
Mark Del Franco, writer Misfits is a catalog devoted to products and ideas that didn’t quite catch on. Inspired by the Edsel, this 32-page catalog is filled with nostalgia: eight-track tapes, Betamax VCRs, and New Coke. And coming for Misfits’ fall edition, a new entertainment section featuring videos from Ishtar to Waterworld, including Chevy Chase’s talk show and any Eddie Murphy movie after 1985.
Peter Girard, special projects manager My brother works in destruction, tearing down postwar tract housing to make way for modern tract housing. When I saw his home furnished with scavenged bounty from these tired split levels, it came to me: Slumming-a catalog filling trophy homes with honesty since 1999.
With crisp, vibrant pages bursting with pricey, objets d’yesterday, Slumming delivers more than threadbare La-Z-Boys ($699) and rickety TV carts ($249); Slumming takes readers back to their halcyon pasts. Whether it’s aluminum siding, shag carpets (some with real cigarette burns), or chrome radar ranges that weigh 200 lbs. and emit showers of sparks, each of these is a one-of-a-kind classic.
In a world flooded with pretense and fakery, these authentic items define their buyers: genuine, modest people with enough money to buy anything they want, enough sense to buy what they trust, and enough collective economic heft to make Slumming a winner. Accept no imitations-this is your father’s Oldsmobile ($34,999).
Moira Pascale, editorial assistant I Know You Are But What Am I? sells licensed retorts and snappy comebacks for kids. Rough recess period? Getting pelted during dodgeball? These one-liners might help you out of a jam (and possibly make you cooler). The catalog features Remedial (“I know you are but what am I?”) and Gifted (“You’ve got a great face for radio”) lines of merchandise, with each comeback available for one-time use. Much of the business would be built on the honor system. Buyers would have to cross-their-heart-and-hope-to-die-stick-a-needle-in-their-eye to ensure that they would use only the comebacks that they had paid for.