The Nature Co. soon to be extinct

Call it Darwinism among catalogers. Four years ago, Bethesda, MD-based Discovery Communications (the parent company of cable television network The Discovery Channel) acquired The Nature Co.’s catalog business and its chain of more than 100 stores for $40 million. Since then, approximately 75% of The Nature Co. stores have been converted into Discovery Channel stores. Now Discovery is co-opting the catalog and the remaining stores into the Discovery Channel brand. By the end of next year, The Nature Co. should be extinct.

The Fall Preview 2000 catalog, about 2 million copies of which mailed in July, features both the Discovery Channel and Nature Co. names on its front cover. For the holiday season, the company will mail about 3.6 million books – also with the logos of both brands, says Tom Burke, senior vice president of marketing for The Discovery Channel. Some time in 2001, he says, the Nature Co. name will be dropped from the catalog altogether.

One brand easier than two Absorbing Nature Co. into Discovery Channel has “always been the plan since the acquisition,” says Burke. Once the remaining 25 or so Nature Co. stores are converted to Discovery Channel stores next year, Discovery will have about 155 stores. The company’s e-commerce sites, which now account for about 10% of sales, will also be merged into one Discovery Channel Website.

Discovery held focus groups this past spring to determine if Nature Co. products, which include jewelry and apparel with nature and animal motifs, would sell in the Discovery Channel catalog, which features more educational products, such as videos and CD-ROMs, as well as collectibles, and apparel. “The customers were receptive to new offers in either catalog,” Burke says. And although research proved that customers know and appreciate both brands, “it’s much cheaper to maintain one brand,” he adds.

While the target customer for both books is similar – predominately upscale, educated females 35-54 years old – Discovery Channel has a larger percentage of male customers, at about 36%, compared to 22% for Nature Co., according to Hackensack, NJ-based Mokrynski & Associates, the list manager for Discovery and Nature Co. Both books have an average order size of $70.