The Ella Starr catalog is born

New York-based apparel manufacturer Mink Marketing has launched Ella Starr, its first catalog and e-commerce site, targeting African-American and Hispanic women.

The company mailed 100,000 copies of the 24-page, 6-1/4″ × 11″ catalog in early August. The company rented the names of female frequent catalog buyers from Sherman Oaks, CA-based list firm Fasano and Associates.

Mink produces private-label brands for retailers and other distibutors. The catalog features Mink’s newly created Ella Starr collection of suits, dresses, separates, and accessories for special occasions, as well as apparel from the Essence by Mail ready-to-wear collection.

Mink recently acquired the licensing rights to the name from Essence Communications Partners, which had liquidated the Essence by Mail catalog in October 2002 in order to focus on its flagship magazine, Essence. At the time it was discontinued, Essence by Mail had annual sales of roughly $19 million and a house file of more than 350,000 customers, primarily African-American women 45-60 years old.

A Mink spokesperson said that, as of early September, the company was receiving about 30 phone inquiries and orders a day. It had logged about 1,400 hits on and about 200 orders, with an average order value of $160.

The company is negotiating with Fasano and Associates and another list services firm, Walter Karl, on future mailings, which Mink creative director Stefanie Perry says will target a larger audience.

Catalogers had shied away from focusing on African-American consumers in the past, citing a lack of good lists and comparatively low credit-card penetration. One title that does target African-American women, apparel catalog Ashro Lifestyle, was acquired in August by Monroe, WI-based multititle mailer The Swiss Colony in part to complement its Midnight Velvet book, which has a similar audience. Women’s apparel catalog Homeland Authentics, personal-care mailer Gold Medal, and wigs and accessories book Especially Yours also cater to African-American women.

In fact, Perry says, Mink’s research shows that African-American consumers, like consumers at large, have become more amenable to buying direct: “More women shop online and from catalogs than ever before.”

What’s more, Perry says, “we are confident that women of all hues, shapes and sizes will enjoy the styles featured in Ella Starr.”

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