Pfaltzgraff Spruces Up Its Setting

Feb 01, 2003 10:30 PM  By

For nearly 20 years, tabletop items manufacturer Pfaltzgraff Co. has mailed its catalog to existing customers largely so that they could order supplemental pieces or discontinued china patterns.

To reach new — and younger — customers and to build a mail-order business selling dish sets rather than replacement pieces, Pfaltzgraff in March will mail a new, more sophisticated-looking version of its catalog. The new book won’t replace Pfaltzgraff’s core “aftermarket” catalog, however. The York, PA-based company will continue to mail its traditional catalog (including two sale books) six times a year to several million customers, says Jim Smekal, vice president, direct-to-consumer retail.

Catalog requesters will make up about 80% of the new book’s initial mailing, with the rest going to prospects taken from co-op databases, Smekal says. Requesters have asked for catalogs on the company’s Website, at retail bridal shows, at outlet or department stores, or on Pfaltzgraff warranty cards. The company expects to mail more than 1 million copies of the new book over the course of the year. In addition, Pfaltzgraff will distribute the catalog at bridal shows.

To win over more adults in their 20s and 30s, Pfaltzgraff is modifying both its product selection and its catalog creative. Whereas the company typically introduced five new patterns per season, this year it has unveiled 14. Many of the new patterns have a hand-painted, contemporary, urban look, compared with the more traditional patterns that “people associate Pfaltzgraff with — what their mothers or grandmothers always had,” Smekal says.

In addition, the new book shows the dishes in use in lifestyle settings, such as on a table at a party. The core catalog relies on spreads of multiple patterns and pieces; the only lifestyle touch is the food that is sometimes propped on the china.

A sense of excitement

“The [new] book is focused on getting customers excited about buying place settings in the first place — making the place settings the heroes in the catalog rather than accessories,” Smekal says. “Accessories [such as pitchers and tureens] are important, because they’re a way we can differentiate ourselves from other casual-dinnerware manufacturers. But the focus of this catalog is place settings because we believe these are the drivers of the purchase.”

The new catalog is also designed to drive retail traffic; it lists stores, including numerous department-store chains such as Macy’s and J.C. Penney, that sell Pfaltzgraff products.

Pfaltzgraff is hoping for a 1.8% response rate from the new catalog, compared with the 1.6% response it gets from its current catalog. It’s also hoping for a 10% larger average order size, the exact amount of which Smekal won’t reveal.

Pfaltzgraff may be rolling out another catalog spin-off as well. In September it tested a holiday giftware catalog that sold items such as teapots, quilts, and ceramic baskets. The book, which was mailed to a “very small” audience of Pfaltzgraff customers, is still under review. “We’re evaluating results and deciding whether to continue it this year,” Smekal says.

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