Norm Thompson Still Reworking Waterfront Living

Two years after acquiring nautical home products and gifts catalog Waterfront Living, multititle mailer Norm Thompson Outfitters is still mapping the book’s course.

Hillsboro, OR-based Norm Thompson did not mail a holiday Waterfront Living catalog, and it is not sure when it will drop another edition. But the company doesn’t intend to shelve the book, says senior vice president of catalog brands Craig Dewey. Rather, it is trying to figure out how the title fits into its overall corporate strategy. “We need to determine how we will devote resources to it,” Dewey says.

As a lifestyle book appealing to consumers who love the water, Waterfront Living fits a different niche from Norm Thompson’s other titles, which include apparel catalog Early Winters and home products book Solutions. “We didn’t have this exact type of catalog in our family before,” Dewey says.

Not long after acquiring the then-$3 million Waterfront Living in early 2001, Norm Thompson began working on a redesign. Dewey refers to the original Waterfront Living as a “random-item paginated book,” in which products were just fitted on a page. “We wanted it to be a lifestyle book for people who love the water,” Dewey explains. The company began to look at activities associated with the waterfront and to envision rooms that one might find at a seaside or lakeshore home. The redesigned book, which mailed in August 2002, used indoor and outdoor settings as a backdrop for its merchandise.

The book was also reorganized by theme. A spread depicting a beach clambake, for instance, sold a range of products needed for such an event. “We wanted to remind people of their experiences visiting the shore,” Dewey says. “People really relate to the emotional side of the waterfront.”

Norm Thompson had decided not to mail Waterfront Living during the holiday season even before it assessed the results from the August mailing. And in fact, Dewey says, the redesigned book performed better than the company had anticipated.

Now Norm Thompson is determining the merchandise assortment for the next edition of Waterfront Living, which may mail in the spring or the summer. “Likely, when we relaunch, we’ll continue with five mailings a year,” Dewey says, which is the same frequency as when Norm Thompson acquired the book. “We don’t see it increasing its circulation much until we’ve really proven the concept and made sure it’s financially viable before we start filling up other mail dates.”

Still, Dewey points out, there’s a lot of interest in Waterfront Living. “It has a small but growing house file. We feel there’s a future, but we just don’t have a time line,” he says.

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