1-800-Batteries’ ‘bat phones’

Ken Hawk, founder/CEO of 1-800-Batteries, calls them “bat phones.” He’s referring to the phones his Reno, NV-based portable batteries catalog company began installing in September in stores that sell products by Rayovac, the cataloger’s new marketing partner. Customers who pick up the phones will automatically be connected to 1-800-Batteries’ call center, where they can order batteries the retailer doesn’t stock.

Why would store owners allow a catalog to sell directly to its customers in their own stores? “Retailers were having a difficult time stocking enough batteries, with so many types of cell phone, camcorder, hearing aid, laptop, and other batteries,” Hawk says. “Consumers were getting frustrated, and the retailers were losing sales and customers. Now retailers can stock just a handful of SKUs while giving their customers access to almost anything.”

The participating retailers will receive commissions on batteries sold through the 1-800-Batteries phones. “We’ll also supply them with quarterly reports, showing them which SKUs their customers are buying most, so they can stock the batteries their customers are buying,” Hawk adds.

For its part, Madison, WI-based Rayovac believes that providing the hotlines will encourage more stores to carry its line, increasing its market share-even though Hawk anticipates that only half of its “bat phone” sales will be of Rayovac products.

Big winner 1-800-Batteries has the most to gain from the deal. Beyond increased sales and new customers, the cataloger expects to benefit from Rayovac’s promotional muscle. “Among battery manufacturers, Rayovac has an exclusive with Michael Jordan, and now we have access to one of the best-known spokesmen in the world,” Hawk says. “Jordan already appears on our Website, he’ll be in our catalogs, and eventually we’ll use him on TV and cable.” Rayovac is also the number-one manufacturer of hearing aid batteries, he says, with Arnold Palmer as its spokesman for those.

The cataloger will also leverage Rayovac’s presence in the U.K., Germany, France, and Italy when it begins mailing into Europe next year. And Rayovac is a name brand in Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore, where 1-800-Batteries plans to start mailing in 2000. “If you think finding a battery is difficult here, you should try it in Japan,” Hawk says.

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