Boden Hits the Newspapers

With a $220 average order, U.K.-based apparel cataloger Boden attracts a well-heeled customer—both at home and in the U.S. To find more upscale American consumers, the merchant in early September inserted a prospecting catalog in two major newspapers.

Boden distributed between 500,000 and 1 million copies of a 62-page catalog inside the Sept. 9 issue of the New York Times and The Washington Post. Boden frequently inserts catalogs in newspapers in the U.K., primarily because the costs for postage is so high for British mailers, according to Justin Metcalf, president of Boden USA.

“In the U.K. mailing catalogs inside newspapers is fairly standard,” Metcalf says. While some U.S. catalogers, such as Ross-Simons and REI, have taken advantage of inserting catalogs in newspapers, the practice is not as common here. This was Boden’s first crack at it in the U.S., he notes, “and I’m sure there are things we didn’t do well, and we made some mistakes.”

Though he wouldn’t divulge costs, Metcalf says marketing via the newspaper is not cheap, and it can be risky if you run promotions to entice people to order. While the book may be aimed at prospects, “your buyers also see it,” he says. “And you have to be careful with that. You have to take care of your customers.”

Also, while newspaper inserts may put your book in front of desirable prospects, you don’t know if they are direct shoppers. Mailing to proven catalog buyers will yield a stronger response than targeting unproven prospects.

Still, Metcalf expects that results from distributing catalogs via newspapers will outweigh the downsides, as the campaign would be deemed a success at breakeven. “We’ll put a toe in the water and see how it goes. This is an extremely successful vehicle for us in the U.K.” he says.

As a further sign of its commitment to the U.S. market, Boden will open a 60,000 sq.-ft. distribution facility/call center in Scranton, PA, in January. While the company outsources a Miami-based contact center, , it has been fulfilling U.S. orders from its Leicester, U.K. distribution center for the past five years. Boden’s U.S. direct sales are projected to top $100 million next year.