Given the challenges in catalog marketing today—namely higher postal and paper costs—and the slowdown in general retail, there aren’t too many success stories so far this year.
But AeroGrow International is one of them: The kitchen gardening systems marketer’s catalog–launched about nine months ago–has pushed the company’s sales to record heights.
Boulder, CO-based AeroGrow International first mailed 50,000 copies of a 16-page catalog last June. The six-year-old company then dropped 750,000 24-page books during the last four months of 2007.
For the third quarter ended Dec. 31, AeroGrow’s sales jumped 201%, to about $14.6 million, compared to the $4.9 million for the same period the previous year. Revenue for the nine-month period ended Dec. 31 soared 305%, to $27.2 million, compared to $6.7 million for the same period the previous year.
“The catalog was a significant contributor both at the top line and bottom line in the third quarter,” says John Thompson, the company’s vice president of investor relations. “And it worked amazingly well across a broad range of lists we tested.”
Why is AeroGrow growing like a weed? Thompson says the company’s core product—the AeroGarden, which uses dirt-free aeroponic technology to create a rain forest-like growing environment—is a hit with consumers.
The AeroGarden suspends plants in air in a humid, “highly oxygenated” aeroponic growing chamber that fits on a kitchen counter. The system provides plants with ideal levels of nutrients and water, so they grow twice as fast as in dirt.
Not only is the AeroGarden an exclusive product, Thompson says: “to be able to garden indoors all year round and enjoy fresh herbs and vegetables and beautiful flowers is something that really appeals to a broad range of people across pretty much any demographic.”
Still, what’s the key to its catalog success? “Part of it is the strong response from our house file, which is off the charts in terms of people ordering our consumables like seed kits and grow lights, but also AeroGarden users purchasing additional new gardens,” Thompson says.
And from a prospecting standpoint, the catalog sells more than 70 products, “all of which are novel and deliver unique consumer benefits,” he adds.
Going forward, AeroGrow aims to expand the catalog’s circulation. “I imagine what we mailed last quarter will look small to us this time next year,” Thompson says.
“Right now we’re planning somewhere between six and eight drops annually, and the total number of catalogs mailed should be at least five million,” he says. “But it could be much larger than that if we keep getting the numbers we’re seeing.”