Gifts book redesigns and redefines

A month ago, if Janet Thompson, vice president of The San Francisco Music Box Co. catalog, had met the Wizard of Oz, she probably would have asked for a heart. Not for her, but for her catalog. Numerous design changes in past years, she felt, had made the book busy, hard to read, and too promotional. “It lost all its heart,” she says.

Now, Thompson hopes a redesign will put the book back on track. The 20-year-old musical collectibles catalog was redesigned prior to its July mailing. The company is hoping that the redesign, along with the introduction of a new product line and more prospecting, will accelerate growth. After five years of 5% average annual growth, the San Francisco Music Box catalog took in roughly $10 million in sales last year. The Walnut Creek, CA-based mailer, owned by Venator Group (formerly Woolworth), is hoping to see a 7% sales increase this year and a 10%-12% increase in 1999. Thompson also hopes to broaden the core 40- to 55-year-old female base to a slightly younger audience.

Growth by design Formerly a digest, the catalog now measures 8-1/2″ x 11″. It also now includes, for the first time, nonmusical merchandise. The July mailing introduced Spirit of the City, a line of San Francisco-themed nonmusical items such as Victorian candelabras, antique jewelry, and beaded bags.

To bring the catalog’s design back to a look that best suits the merchandise, Thompson has emphasized editorial that informs readers about the history of the products and introduces some of the artists. Roughly 90% of the merchandise is exclusive to San Francisco Music Box, including Boyds Bears by Gary Lowenthal and the Enchanted Fantasy line of musical figurines by Marjorie Sarnat. The catalog also has an exclusive license from National Geographic to sell musical wildlife figurines. Seventy percent of the catalog’s line is created inhouse, and Thompson wants to see that grow. “We get our best margin on products we develop ourselves,” she says.

To introduce the revitalized catalog, the company mailed it to 1.2 million names rented from high-end collectibles and gifts lists. An additional 500,000 people received a Spirit of the City test catalog selling only the new line, which is also being tested in 12 of the company’s 180 Music Box stores. Thompson doubts, however, that the company will spin off Spirit of the City as a separate book. “Originally that was our intention,” she says. “But I think we’ll integrate it into one larger and better book to maintain brand continuity.”

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