S&S Recreation, 1999

The S&S Recreation catalog is “jam-packed with every imaginable recreational craft, toy, or game,” one judge proclaims. Indeed, organizations that are in the market for arts, crafts, games, sports equipment, partyware, and decorations will probably find whatever they’re looking for in this Silver Award-winning book.

Inside the catalog, photographs of happy kids combined with benefit-laden copy and clearly presented prices work together to sell the goods. “The occasional institutional copy is friendly and market-focused,” says one judge. “The product copy is just descriptive enough, and coupled with the use of multiple symbols, it gets the maximum impact from minimum space,” another judge adds. But the same judge also notes that the catalog’s headlines “aren’t particularly effective.”

Another area that needs work is the catalog’s design, which “falls short on esthetic appeal,” a judge says. “The institutional pages are too dense and too dark, the knockout type is impossible to read, and color is overused.” Another judge agrees with this assessment, adding that “the layouts and density seem uneven from one section to another. There are only a few feature or `hero’ products to aid the customer in making a decision.”

But S&S does a good job supporting its market and target audience – the staffs of recreational programs for children ages 4-12. For instance, part of the inside cover promotes the company’s sponsorship of an arts and humanities award program, while the inside back cover mentions its “great idea” contest, which solicits product ideas from customers. This type of contest “builds excitement and puts the focus on the customers,” says one judge. “It’s also a good way to get new product ideas,” says another panelist.

Other nice touches include the catalog’s president’s letter, which lends credibility to the company, and a section up front detailing “7 great reasons to buy group activity packs.” But product is the true hero of this book. S&S merchandisers evidently believe more is more, and it works. Campers and crafters will never be at a loss of things to do. The exhaustive selection of well-chosen merchandise appeals to all kids – and to the kids in all of us.

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