Tyrol Begets Alpenland

German gifts cataloger Tyrol International closed more than a year ago. But it spawned a similar catalog that has quietly been doing business since last fall.

In May 2003 five employees of House of Tyrol, the Cleveland, GA-based parent company of Tyrol International, had bought the assets — primarily the house file — of the 33-year-old catalog. In September 2003 they used it to mail an eight-page debut edition of the Alpenland International catalog.

“We targeted the mailing to a very core group of people who we knew would respond,” says Alpenland president Beverly Autry. A 40-page holiday book selling 320 SKUs followed in late October. Alpenland has mailed three times this year, in January, March, and July, all exclusively to its house file and to people who have requested the catalog online or via word of mouth. Autry says that despite a lack of active prospecting, Alpenland’s house file has grown more than 10% since the launch. With next month’s mailing, the company will begin prospecting; 10% of the circulation, the size of which it won’t disclose, will mail to rented names. Next year the company plans to mail four editions in 12 drops.

To promote the fall catalog, Alpenland is placing space ads in the August/September edition of German Life magazine, a bilingual publication for German-Americans. The first ad is timed to coincide with an article in the magazine highlighting Alpenland’s launch. “We really felt like it was a good avenue,” says Autry. “It’s our type of customers.” The company targets women 55 and older of German or Central European background.

Alpenland sells the same sort of merchandise from Germany and Austria that was popular in the Tyrol International catalog, such as nutcrackers, beer steins, and Hummel figurines. The average price point is $75. Best-sellers include the $199 Hermann Collectible Bears, the deluxe $229 nutcrackers, and beer steins ranging in price from $59 to $250.

House of Tyrol was founded in 1969 by husband-and-wife team Bernd and Linda Nagy; the catalog was launched in 1972. The company peaked in 1999 with $15 million in sales, 85 employees, and three stores. The following year, response began declining while costs escalated, and conditions worsened each year until the Nagys decided to pull the plug in 2003.

That’s when Autry and her four partners — Tyrol International’s IT/database manager Gladwyn Greer, warehouse manager Ed Fox, international and overseas merchant Bernhardt Purk, and financial/purchasing manager Lisa Purk — stepped in. One reason for their decision: They were all facing unemployment. “We live in a rural area where there aren’t a lot of jobs demanding the expertise that we all had,” says Autry.

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