Petals branches out

Nov 01, 2000 10:30 PM  By

Decorative silk flowers cataloger Petals is blossoming into other home products. The $45.5 million White Plains, NY-based catalog company is now offering home decor items with the launch of spin-off catalog titled Accents.

Petals also plans to mail a new wholesale silk flowers title, Flora, to about 200 retailers in April – around the same time it launches Gallery, a merchandise line of more avant-garde silk flower bouquets than Petals’ traditional arrangements.

After testing Accents last March with a 300,000-piece mailing to Petals customers, the cataloger rolled out the 32-page book in September, with a mailing to about 1 million customers. Petals, which will mail 16 million catalogs this year, has more than 2 million names in its house file, including 300,000 12-month buyers. The company plans to mail about 2.4 million copies of the Accents catalog next spring to Petals customers as well as prospects, says Petals president Richard Belenski.

Petals’ merchandise expansion stems from its acquisition in March 1999 by Interiors, a Mount Vernon, NY-based home decor wholesaler. Interiors bought Petals to use its catalogs, its five stores in the Northeast, and eventually its Website (to be revamped next spring) as vehicles for selling home accents and furnishings directly to consumers. Interiors began testing home decor merchandise in Petals’ fall ’99 books. The Accents product line includes couches, beds, rugs, and vases.

Not that Petals has abandoned its faux-flower roots. Its new Gallery merchandise line, after all, consists of silk flowers, but targets a younger audience: upper-income women in their 40s, as opposed to the typical Petals customer, who is an upper-income woman in her 50s.

“We want to show our customers that we are on top of the color and design trends coming into the market,” Belenski says. The company will “soft launch” the Gallery product line, with eight pages in the Petals spring 2001 catalog, rather than as a stand-alone book.

Co-op dealings Petals is also looking to increase sales and exposure through syndicated co-op programs with other mailers. It has had a partnership with Downers Grove, IL-based general merchandise cataloger Spiegel since ’91. Under the program, Petals mails a Spiegel Presents Petals version of its book to Spiegel customers who use the cataloger’s FCNB-branded credit card.

“The program is unique because Spiegel doesn’t make the [FCNB] names available to anyone else,” says Belenski, who estimates that the co-op catalog accounts for about 10% of Petals’ business.

Revenue at Petals increased 13% last year, from $40.4 million in 1998, to $45.5 million. This year, Petals expects to do about $62 million in sales. As for income, Belenski would say only that profits “were in the double digits, pretax.”