Opinion and Response

The Lion Takes a Bite

Regarding Herschell Gordon Lewis’s piece entitled “Catalog Copy: Sticking My Head into the Lion’s Mouth Again” (January issue), I have to take him to task on one of his examples of supposedly ineffective copy. After reading his critique of a copy block describing a print from the Basil Street Gallery catalog, “Master Bedroom” by Andrew Wyeth, I looked up the item in question. What I found was a subtle and sedate painting, which was described perfectly by the copy in question. The print portrays a dog lazily asleep on a bed in colors so subdued that they almost don’t register, and I found it funny that Lewis’s response to the copy (“Yawn”) was an absolutely perfect and appropriate reaction to the content and mood of the painting.

This leaves me seriously questioning Lewis’s judgment in such matters and imagining him as an esthetic dunce incapable of appreciating anything delicate or refined. Perhaps he’d like to live in a world where everything, regardless of what it is, is pitched by loud-mouthed, wild-eyed clowns in outrageous plaid sport coats who assault the prospective buyer with obnoxiously forceful language and swinging arms. Fine. But he shouldn’t then critique copy written for people with taste, as the appeal obviously eludes him.
Michael Worrell art director, Primal Screen

Praise of Biblical Proportions

I just read the article featuring our company that recently appeared on the Catalog Age Website (“With Holiday 2003 History, Mailers Look Ahead to 2004,” Jan. 11). Thank you very much for mentioning us. Catalog Age has been the catalog “bible” for us in many, many ways. It is packed with valuable information on the catalog industry, and I am not sure that we would be where we are as a company today without your publication.
J. Cory Smith President, J. Marco Catalog

Penzeys’s Campaign Strategy

Most catalogers use highly sophisticated zip code analysis to pinpoint prime retail locations. Penzeys Spices, however, is trying a novel approach: a “Bring a Penzeys to Your Town” contest. According to its new catalog, if you want a Penzeys store in your area, you should send the Brookfield, WI-based spices and seasonings marketer a postcard saying as much. The city or metropolitan area that submits the most postcards by July 31 will be rewarded with a Penzeys store. Penzeys, which so far operates the catalog, a Website, and 17 stores, has already opened a store near Catalog Age headquarters, in Norwalk, CT, so we won’t be entering. But if you’re gearing up for a Penzeys postcard campaign, note that the contest specifies only one card per address — so no ballot stuffing.

This Is One Crappy Catalog

Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but no one can deny that the Turd Birds catalog is full of crap. The Lodi, CA-based mailer’s signature product is a bird sculpture made of driftwood, feathers, and horse manure. The line includes birds with whimsical names such as Fifi Feces and Grey Poopon; prices range from $20-$35. The horse manure used to make Turd Birds is carefully collected by catalog founder Karen Engelmann, dried, and lacquered in three coats of liquid plastic. You can plastic-coat it and dress it up, but our feeling is that a turd is still a turd, so this might not be the best gift option for your boss or your mother-in-law.

Trademark Collection Blowing Smoke?

Maybe we’re overreacting a bit, but it looks like a classic case of the old bait-and-switch to us. The front cover of the latest Trademark Collection catalog shows 11 licensed items, including what looks like a figurine Pufnstuf from the vintage Saturday morning kids’ show H.R. Pufnstuf. But inside the catalog, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a single Pufnstuf item. We even went so far as to search on the Website — but no Pufnstuf. No, we’re not obsessed with Pufnstuf (or Witchiepoo, or Jimmy, or Freddie the Flute…), but this oddball show starring a weird dragon character has a way of staying with you. Our point is, if you’re going to show Pufnstuf on the cover (and we know it’s him — he’s even holding that damn flute!) you’d better be able to deliver the goods.

CONTACT US … or visit us on the Web at www.CatalogAgemag.com Email mweinstein@primediabusiness.com Phone 203-358-9900 Fax 203-358-5823 Letter 11 River Bend Drive South, Stamford, CT 06907

Opinion and Response

Another Reality Check

What is it about catalog models and reality TV? Last spring we reported that a star of the first Joe Millionaire dating show, Evan Marriott, once modeled some racy underwear for men’s apparel cataloger/Website California Muscle. Now we have found out that the latest star of The Bachelorette, Meredith Phillips, has also posed for catalogers, including Early Winters, Lands’ End, and Nordstrom. Phillips, who got the boot from Bob last fall on ABC’s The Bachelor series, is looking for love on the airwaves once again, but this time she’s handing out red roses to handsome hopefuls. And since she’s one of the industry’s own (sort of), we wish her lots of luck.

Stoner Does Good

Congratulations to Stoner, winner of the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award in the small business category. Founded 60 years ago by Paul Stoner, an orphan during the Depression who went on to earn a degree in chemistry, the Quarryville, PA-based manufacturer/cataloger today markets a line of 300 cleaners and lubricants. With just 48 employees, Stoner is the smallest business ever to receive a Baldridge Award. Who says stoners never accomplish anything?

Sundance Spider Scare

In early December, Sundance Catalog Co.’s warehouse workers got more than they bargained for when receiving several hundred handmade baskets from Tanzania: The shipment also included a host of brown recluse spiders. The Salt Lake City-based cataloger had to evacuate 120 employees from its West Valley City, UT, distribution center while the uninvited arachnids were exterminated. Happily, nobody was bitten by the brown recluses — although basket orders from the infested shipment had already gone out to eight customers. Sundance contacted the customers to explain the situation and reports that they were “very understanding.” Considering that it’s been noted that a bite from one of the dime-size spiders can be fatal or at the least result in ulcerous sores and volcano lesions, we’d say that those customers were very understanding indeed.

Asian Call Centers Inspire Bollywood Romance

In the October 2003 issue (“Marketers Hear Overseas Call”), we reported on the trend of U.S. catalogers outsourcing call-center functions to third-party providers in overseas locales such as India and the Philippines. Now it seems the concept has gone Hollywood. British director Roger Christian is shooting a film in New Delhi and New York about a young Indian call-center operator who gets involved with one of her transatlantic customers. The film’s title, American Daylight, refers to the fact that India-based operators work through the night to take calls from U.S. customers as India is roughly 12 hours ahead of U.S. time. Even if the film’s not a splashy “Bollywood” musical, we’re looking forward to seeing it when it opens later this year. There aren’t nearly enough movies about call-center romances.

Secret Shopper: The Holiday Stocking

Plenty of catalogs boasted about accepting Christmas orders as late as Dec. 23. But while they may have had the capability to do so, many mailers didn’t have the merchandise in stock.

Catalog Age’s Secret Shopper called 15 consumer catalogs on Dec. 22 and 23 to request 41 products for Christmas delivery. Only 23 of the requested items, or 56%, were available.

Apparel catalogers The Territory Ahead and Victoria’s Secret fared the worst, with none of the requested products in stock. Home decor cataloger/retailer Pottery Barn and jewelry and gifts marketer Ross-Simons were the only companies contacted to have all three of the items requested available. What’s more, Ross-Simons said it would assume the express delivery charge for Christmas delivery.

Speaking of surcharges for rush delivery, home decor cataloger Sturbridge Yankee Workshop, which had two of the three requested items in stock, charged the most — $62. But apparel cataloger/retailer Talbots, like Ross-Simons, charged only its usual shipping rate. Talbots also provided arguably the best customer service: When one of the three items requested was found to be out of stock, the service rep recommended a similar, less expensive item and offered a 10% discount on it since the first choice was unavailable.

Cooking.com 3/1 12/22 Yes, for $24.95 express shipping charge
Eddie Bauer 3/2 12/22 Yes, for an additional $12
Hearthsong 3/2 12/22 “Probably, but we’re not guaranteeing it anymore”
J.C. Penney 2/1 12/23 Yes, with a $20 surcharge
J. Jill 3/2 12/22 Yes, for an additional $15
Lillian Vernon 3/2 12/23 Yes — if placed by noon that day (10 a.m. for personalized items — for an additional $27)
Pottery Barn* 3/3 12/22 Yes, with a $15 surcharge
Orvis 3/2 12/23 Yes, if placed by 4 p.m. that day, for an additional $16
RedEnvelope** n/a 12/22 N/A
Ross-Simons 3/3 12/22 Yes, with cataloger assuming the express charges
Sturbridge Yankee Workshop 3/2 12/22 Yes, for $62 express shipping charge
Talbots*** 3/2 12/22 Yes, no extra charge
Taylor Gifts 3/1 12/22 Yes, with a $28 surcharge
The Territory Ahead 3/0 12/22 N/A
Victoria’s Secret 3/0 12/22 N/A
* As Secret Shipper was fumbling for SKU numbers, CSR said kindly but firmly: “Come on, we wastin’ time if you want me to get this to you by Christmas.”
** No answer, despite three efforts — during the second of which Secret Shopper was on hold for two minutes and 20 seconds before being disconnected. No wonder the phone message prompted callers to order online!
*** The rep recommended a similar, less expensive item than one requested that no longer in stock in the catalog and took an additional 10% off since the first choice was not available.

CONTACT US … or visit us on the Web at www.CatalogAgemag.com

Email mweinstein@primediabusiness.com Phone 203-358-9900 Fax 203-358-5823 Letter 11 River Bend Drive South, Stamford, CT 06907

Opinion and Response

Kudos for Co-op Story

December’s article “Re-evaluating Co-op Database Options” was excellent. The article covered a complicated topic involving “black box” model-building very clearly and well. At its conclusion, the differences and similarities, relative costs, features, and benefits were clearly known to the reader. Thank you!
Geoffrey Batrouney, executive vice president, Estee Marketing Group

A Spam Hater Speaks Up

Regarding your December editorial, “Spam Today, Mail Tomorrow?”: OK, so you’re not yet REALLY, FULLY in favor of doing something about spam. Perhaps the 541 spams (none from sources with a prior business relationship) that I got over the four-day Thanksgiving weekend would convince you. I’d be happy to forward them to you if that would help. If that’s not enough, there will be 100 or so more tomorrow…and the next day…and the next.

What I object to about spam from an economic perspective (putting questions of taste aside) is that almost all the cost of this form of “advertising” is borne by the recipient — me. This includes the cost of the bandwidth, my time to sort out the 3%-5% of valid e-mails buried in spam, and the effect of a good but imperfect spam filter that sometimes tosses incoming e-mail that I want.

Yes, I get junk mail at home, but the number of mailers who are willing to pay $0.25-$0.40 per letter (printing and mailing) limits my volume to 5-10 a day. And I can sort those into “read” and “toss” piles in no time. Only when both paper and postage become free will you have to worry about that “do not mail” registry you mention becoming more than a scare tactic.

Spam is making it nearly impossible for the legitimate marketer to use e-mail in a limited, constructive, and nonobtrusive way. What is your organization doing about that?
Peter Gollon, president


If you’re over the age of 11, leafing through most toy catalogs can be an overwhelming experience. So many vividly colored, seemingly similar products strewn across the pages. So many descriptions that don’t specify which age groups the products are best suited for, nor the dimensions of the toys.

Toys to Grow On, like most of its competitors, crams large, bright photos onto its pages with little regard for orderly grids. It does, however, leave enough white space to avoid inducing a headache. But that’s not the only reason we love it.

Every product description includes recommended ages and size information. The in-use photos give you a sense of scale as well. And the copy succinctly provides such details as how many “lifelike vinyl animals” come with the Wild Animals Adventure Set and if assembly is required. Several pages are devoted to gifts within specific price ranges, and gift-wrapping is a relatively reasonable $3.95 an item.

What really won us over was the service. Our mother-in-law called in early December to ask if the Keyboard Music Studio — recommended for ages seven and up — would be too advanced for a four-year-old. Instead of simply taking the product description at face value, the phone rep walked over to see a sample of the product in the call center, then discussed which functions of the keyboard would indeed be too complicated and which ones wouldn’t. And if an item doesn’t work, Toys to Grow On’s “no-nonsense guarantee” promises that “if you’re not thrilled with any item for any reason,” you can return it for a full credit or refund. Clearly, Toys to Grow On doesn’t play around with customer satisfaction.

You Call That Expedited?

A Catalog Age staffer recently ordered a pair of shoes from Sierra Trading Post’s Sierra Shoes catalog. The telephone service rep said the standard ground shipping method (U.S. Parcel Post) would have the shoes there in 12-15 business days — an eternity by today’s standards. For an additional $1, though, the staffer could opt for delivery within seven or eight business days — still not exactly speedy. The staffer did indeed shell out the extra buck to knock five days off the shipping time, paying a total of $8.25 (three-day delivery would have cost $16.25; two-day service, $28.25). But since the shoes were ordered on a Friday night, and a holiday fell the following Thursday, if the order took 10 business days, that would put delivery at more than two weeks from the order date — ouch. We know Sierra’s edge is its low prices, but surely there’s a faster or cheaper way to transport products. (For the record, the shoes arrived on the sixth business day, and the staffer is delighted with them.)

Christmas Delivery Cutoffs

Some catalogers were more eager to gain last-minute holiday orders than others, judging from a random sampling of Christmas-delivery deadlines. For instance, gifts mailer Eden Lane didn’t guarantee delivery on orders received after Dec. 18 — and orders after Dec. 8 were charged for expedited shipping. Meanwhile, several catalogers, including L.L. Bean and The Sharper Image, charged only standard shipping fees for orders received as late as Dec. 21 while still guaranteeing Christmas delivery. Among the most accommodating catalogs for last-minute shoppers: Nordstrom, which guaranteed Christmas delivery for orders received as late as 1 p.m. Pacific time on Dec. 23.

Astrographics (astronomy-related gifts) Dec. 21 Dec. 14
Bits and Pieces (puzzles and gifts) Dec. 18 Dec. 14
Clever Gear (gifts) 10 a.m. EST Dec. 23 Dec. 11
Eden Lane (gifts) noon EST Dec. 18 Dec. 8
Fannie May (candy) 6 p.m. CST Dec. 19 6 p.m. CST Dec. 16
Harry and David (food) Dec, 22 Dec. 17
Hold Everything (home accessories) 9 a.m. PST Dec. 23 noon PST Dec. 20
Illy (coffee-related gifts) Dec. 19 Dec. 15
J. Crew (apparel) 11 a.m. EST Dec. 23 7p.m. Dec. 21
Lillian Vernon (gifts and home goods) Dec. 19 Dec. 16
L.L. Bean (apparel and outdoor gear) noon EST Dec. 23 11:30 p.m. EST Dec. 22
Mark Shale (apparel) midnight CST Dec. 22 midnight Dec. 15
Nordstrom (women’s apparel) 1 p.m. PST Dec. 23 1 p.m. PST Dec. 19
O’Halloran Co. (equestrian apparel and accessories) Dec. 23 Dec. 15
The Sharper Image (high-tech gifts) 9 a.m. PST Dec. 23 9 a.m. PST Dec. 22
Signals (gifts) Dec. 21 Dec. 17
Stew Leonard’s (food) Dec. 23 Dec. 10
Victoria’s Secret (women’s apparel) 3 p.m. EST Dec. 23 6 p.m. EST Dec. 15
The Wisconsin Cheeseman (food) 10 a.m. CST Dec. 23 Dec 8

CONTACT US … or visit us on the Web at www.CatalogAgemag.com

Email mweinstein@primediabusiness.com Phone 203-358-9900 Fax 203-358-5823
Letter 11 River Bend Drive South, Stamford, CT 06907

Opinion and Response


A Guide to Grassroots Action

Chris Bradley, president of Portland, ME-based bedding cataloger Cuddledown of Maine, on acting locally to lobby for postal reform

If you are like me, you have plenty to do with your current responsibilities, so you may not feel compelled to take on something as daunting as postal reform. This sort of politically charged quagmire is best left to the professional lobbyists and Washington insiders — or at least that’s what it first looked like from where I sit.

Nearly two years ago I attended a DMA meeting that included a presentation on the current USPS situation. I was struck by both the seriousness of the situation and how little success the big mailers were having in getting reform started. I became convinced that a different, grassroots approach was needed, and now I have seen how effective that different approach can be.

I established the Maine Postal Reform Committee in spring 2002 and organized meetings in Maine with Congressman Tom Allen and Senator Susan Collins. The result of these meetings was to educate both of them on the issue and its effect on jobs in the state. They became advocates for postal reform, and Sen. Collins introduced a bill to establish and fund a presidential commission. This success validates the effectiveness of our approach, but it obviously can’t end with the state of Maine. To achieve meaningful postal reform we need to organize grassroots efforts in every state. Below, some steps to take in your area:

  • Form a group of interested mailers that includes catalogers, printers, magazines, letter shops, list brokers, color separators, financial companies, photographers, data service bureaus, and paper mills. You want a broad selection of companies that represent a lot of jobs because to a politician, jobs mean votes.

  • Decide which of your representatives and senators will have the most influence on this issue and prioritize them. The DMA can help with this decision, as can the government affairs people at any large mailer in your area. Start with your highest-priority representative or senator and organize a meeting to discuss postal reform.

  • Hold your meeting at a printer, a paper mill, or another locale where you can give the feeling of postal-dependent work being done and the jobs that are at risk if the USPS continues to slide into financial trouble. You want to give the impression that this issue affects many industries and all sizes of companies.

  • Outline the emerging crisis, as well as proposed action, so your congressional representative will have a comprehensive overview. Provide a listing of the companies in your group, as well as the number of jobs at each company.

  • Develop a few presentations from attendees that will illustrate the effect of the last postal increase on their companies. These should be simple and frank discussions in terms of dollars and jobs to give the senator or representative a feeling for the magnitude and the dynamics of the problem that each of us face.

  • Be sure to ask your senator or representative to be an advocate in Congress for postal reform. Ask him or her to support legislation that will enable the USPS to fix the flaw in the pension windfall bill that passed this spring.

As far as organizing your group, you want to recruit one or two other professionals to help form the group and do the legwork. Make sure that you have a staff member to help — if not, recruit someone who does.

Contact your printer, separator, paper merchant, list broker, data service bureau, etc. to help identify companies in your area that are being hurt by high postage rates. Be sure to get people who are actually working in your state. For instance, you want the mill manager of the paper mill in your state, not someone from the home office.

You should also concentrate on building an e-mail list of the contacts for your group. You will be organizing meetings, often with last-minute information changes, so e-mail is the best contact method.

And finally, have someone at the meetings with your senator or representative take photographs with a digital camera and e-mail them to you. Photos tell so much of the story and will be useful for telling other people about your efforts and success.

For more information on starting a grassroots campaign, e-mail cbradley@cuddledown.com

Still Waiting…

A Catalog Age staffer’s mother used to berate her for never returning phone calls. Now the staffer is on the nonreceiving end of a relationship, with Sure Fit Slipcovers. The staffer, a longtime customer, placed an online order with the cataloger in mid-September. When the order finally arrived, one month later, the slipcovers were the wrong color. Hastening back to the Website’s customer service pages, the staffer read that she’d be responsible for the return postage and would have to wait another month before she could expect the slipcovers she had originally ordered. Unhappy with the thought of staring at her worn couch for yet another month, the customer sent an e-mail asking if the returns process could be speeded up and if Sure Fit would pay for the return postage, seeing as it was the company’s error. Almost immediately she received an automatic e-mail response from Sure Fit, assuring her that someone would get back to her within two days. As of this writing, it’s been two weeks… The staffer now offers her mother a sincere apology for not getting back to her sooner.

A Mustard-Read Catalog

We thought we’d end the year by highlighting one of the more entertaining catalogs we received in 2003: The “Mustardbill” edition of the Mount Horeb Mustard Museum. You may expect a catalog from a museum of mustard to be a little dry, but this “Mustardpiece Theatre” production, which resembles a Broadway playbill, is filled with zesty fun. For starters, Barry Levenson, “curator” of the Mount Horeb, WI-based mailer, appears on the cover in a dress as “Maria Von Moutarde” starring in “The Sound of Mustard.” Inside, special gift boxes such as “Curator on the Roof,” “Annie Get Your Bun,” and “West Side Slather” no doubt convince the audience to delve into Dijon, crack up with Coleman’s, and hold out for horseradish blend. The curtain has fallen on the Mustardbill, but the museum is on to its next act: a catalog tribute to mustard in Sin City titled “Viva Las Mustards.” We haven’t seen it yet, but if it’s half as creative as its ode to the theater, we say bravo.


Telemarketers, Heal Thyself

Regarding the National “Do Not Call” Registry, whatever happened to the concept of “less government is better government”? Government should flex its muscle when it is necessary to protect those who cannot defend themselves. If your phone rings and you do not want to be bothered, simply do not answer it, or hang up on the unwanted caller. Government’s answer to TV audiences who do not applaud violence or graphic subjects is to simply change the channel or do not watch TV. Television, media print, and certain radio shows are much more intrusive.

Telemarketers and direct marketers need to self enforce a few simple guidelines to avoid a federal watchdog agency:

  • Do not call during dinner hours.
  • Do not call after 9 p.m.
  • Call a prospect one time each quarter (actual phone contact).
  • Do not block your caller ID.
  • Be courteous.

An honest review and use of these applications will slowly eat away the ugly image of the telemarketing industry.
Mark Traverso, vice president, list management and new business, Lighthouse List Co.

CONTACT US … or visit us on the Web at www.CatalogAgemag.com

Email mweinstein@primediabusiness.com
Phone 203-358-9900 Fax 203-358-5823
Letter 11 River Bend Drive South, Stamford, CT 06907

Opinion and Response


Survey Says: Better Than Expected

All this talk about how catalogers had slashed circulation may be just that: talk. Among the respondents to the Direct Marketing Association’s Catalog Survey 2003, cosponsored by Catalog Age, 53% had increased circulation last year — more than twice as many (23%) as had cut circulation.

Similar numbers emerged regarding response. Fifty-three percent of respondents boasted of improved response last year compared with 2001, while 30% admitted that response had declined. And while 19% of respondents said that the number of names in their buyer file decreased last year, 59% managed to increase the size of their house file.

Eighty-four catalogers responded to the survey. The DMA will release additional results at its Annual Catalog in Orlando, FL, Oct. 11-15, and the complete results with analysis will be available for purchase later this year.

Mike Ditka, Male Model?

Football fans saw a familiar face on the cover of the Eagle Dry Goods Co. 2003 Catalogue: the venerable Mike Ditka. The former NFL coach/sportscaster models the business-to-business apparel marketer’s floral silk camp shirt. Wondering why the macho footballer would appear in a flowered shirt? It seems Ditka’s Chicago restaurant had ordered its signature shirts from Eagle Dry Goods, so the cataloger tapped the tough guy to strike a pose. Of course, the full-page plug for Mike Ditka’s Restaurant and Cigar Club on page 3 of the catalog no doubt sweetened the deal for Ditka. And if you make it to Mike’s the next time you’re in the Windy City, the president of the Eagle Dry Goods highly recommends “Da Pork Chop.”

Chong’s Bong Catalog Up in Smoke

Nobody was too surprised when a Valentine’s Day raid of actor Tommy Chong’s Gardena, CA-based home and business yielded a pound of marijuana as well as a vast quantity of pot-smoking paraphernalia. After all, Chong, along with costar Cheech Marin, made a nice living the 1970s and early 1980s with their pot-friendly comedy albums and movie franchise, which included the films Up in Smoke and Nice Dreams. What was a surprise — to us, anyway — is that Chong was operating a mail order/Internet paraphernalia business. Chong Glass employed 25 glass blowers and sold some 7,500 bongs and pipes up until the Feb. 14 raid. Chong, 65, pleaded guilty May 13 to conspiring to sell drug paraphernalia and pleaded guilty on behalf of his business. He was hit hard at the Sept. 11 sentencing, which includes nine months in prison and a $20,000 fine. As for Chong Glass, the business, though defunct, was placed on probation for three years, and its Internet domain name must be relinquished to federal authorities, along with any remaining paraphernalia. Bummer dude.

This One Sure Fits the Bill

It’s always comforting to know that someone out there has a much uglier couch than you, and that’s why we love the Sure Fit Slipcovers Ugly Couch contest. The New York-based slipcovers manufacturer/marketer awarded this year’s dubious honor on Sept. 16 on TV’s Live with Regis and Kelly. The show’s studio audience chose the winner after the field of more than 1,000 entries was whittled down to three finalists. The winning couch, which belongs to Camille Hempel of Brooklyn, NY, is an ornate carved-wood loveseat with faded pink velvet upholstery set off by mottled brown foam cushions. It’s possible that the sofa is supposed to have only the one arm, but for certain it is missing a leg — a trusty cinder block keeps this seat in service. Perhaps Hempel will use some of her $5,000 prize to have a leg made for the lackluster lounger.

CONTACT US … or visit us on the Web at www.CatalogAgemag.com

Email mweinstein@primediabusiness.com
Phone 203-358-9900
Letter PO Box 4242, Stamford, CT 06907-0242
Fax 203-358-5823

Opinion and Response


Beware Divine Followers

Roman Martynenko, chief financial officer of San Francisco-based Web services provider Ecofabric, on the continuing threat of patent-infringement lawsuits:

For some catalogers, the apparent demise of lawsuit-happy Divine ended concern over being sued for allegedly violating e-commerce ownership rights. According to the overly optimistic, running e-commerce operations no longer marks a company as a target for patent infringement litigation.

While it is true that Divine, having declared bankruptcy and under suspicion of possible criminal violations, is no longer capable of shaking down online marketers, if you’re celebrating an end to Divine-like interlopers fishing in your revenue stream, put the champagne back on ice.

Industry observers believe that legal action alleging patent infringement against online catalogers may reoccur sooner rather than later. John Ferrell, an attorney with Carr & Ferrell, a law firm in Palo Alto, CA, told the San Jose (CA) Business Journal that the “Internet landscape is littered with valuable patents” leading “to an increase in patent-related lawsuits.” All that’s in doubt is the identity of the next to bring litigation.

The Divine shakedown of Web marketers exposes just some of the new and poorly understood risks of doing business online. Among these risks are unpredictable and escalating costs; vulnerability to patent infringement litigation; hacker attack and theft of customer data; and an inability to comply with proposed Internet sales tax, antispam, and other often ill conceived legislative schemes emanating from both state legislatures and Congress.

Combating these risks means dedicating considerable inhouse resources to run your Internet operation or seeking outside help. If you opt to outservice the development or management of your e-commerce site, obviously you need to choose your service provider carefully. You want to find a vendor whose incentives are aligned with your business.

Case in point: E-business software/services providers Multimedia Live, Fry, and my company, Ecofabric, have assumed responsibility for settling Divine claims or are sheltering their clients by using patent-compliant technologies. If a provider is not willing and able to deal with such threats, find one who is.

If wise heads prevail, Internet historians will look back upon the Divine scare as a wake-up call that motivated the industry, with the help of well-qualified e-business providers, to finally devise a comprehensive and integrated business strategy that defends against litigation shakedowns, minimizes exposure to Internet risks both known and unknown, and enhances revenue generation. To such an end, we should dedicate our efforts.

Catalogers Get Bookish

It seems everybody is writing a book these days, and catalogers are no exception. Home decor cataloger/retailer Pottery Barn has come out with three books: Pottery Barn Living Room, Pottery Barn Bedrooms, and Pottery Barn Bathrooms. The books, according to the catalog’s copy, promise to “help you find your own personal blend of comfort and style” with photographs, step-by-step guides, and advice. The tomes cost $24.95 each, or $60 for a boxed set of the three.

And in a bid to help businesses, Ann Arbor, MI-based gourmet foods cataloger/retailer Zingerman’s is now selling Zingerman’s Guide to Giving Great Service. The new book claims to reveal how Zingerman’s treats its customers like royalty, “from going the service extra mile to valuable tips on hiring service-oriented staff.” The 20-year-old marketer is no stranger to sharing its customer service secrets with others…for a price. Zingerman’s nine-year-old ZingTrain training division offers two-day “Art of Giving Great Service” seminars for $850. Note: The new book will set you back a mere $12.

Lands’ End Founder Backs Global Warming Studies

It’s nice to see that catalog billionaire Gary Comer is putting his money to good use. The founder and former chairman of apparel and home goods cataloger Lands’ End has been giving generously to researchers studying abrupt climate change, which some believe are related to global warming.

Comer, who founded Lands’ End in 1963, sold the catalog to Sears, Roebuck & Co. last year, receiving more than half of the $1.9 billion cash price. According to a July 17 cover story in The Wall Street Journal, Comer began doling out some of his millions after experiencing unusual ice conditions on a cruise through the Northwest Passage two years ago. Since then, Comer has given $1 million to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and some $7 million to fund several climate-change research groups.

CONTACT US … or visit us on the Web at www.CatalogAgemag.com

Email mweinstein@primediabusiness.com

Phone 203-358-9900

Letter PO Box 4242, Stamford, CT 06907-0242

Fax 203-358-5823

Opinion and Response

Mourning the Late Great Kate

The world was saddened by the death of legendary actress Katharine Hepburn on June 29. Geoff Batrouney, executive vice president of New Rochelle, NY-based list firm Estee Marketing Group, recalls his brush with greatness when Miss Hepburn made a call to bedding cataloger The Company Store:

In 1984, I was in La Crosse, WI, helping to get The Company Store up and running. We had our share of teething difficulties and challenges in our new inbound call center, which meant I was frequently called on to help on the telephones and deal with problems.

So it was not unusual that morning when our lead staffer asked me to help because there was “someone who says she’s Katharine Hepburn, and she wants to place an order.” “Well,” I recall saying to our very capable lead CSR, “she’s just like any customer, so enjoy the experience and take her order please.” “Nope,” she said. “This person has some conditions, and I can’t help her! And how do we know she is who she says she is?”

So I picked up the telephone and delicately asked who was speaking. Back came that warbling, trembling voice and those clipped syllables: “This is Katharine Hepburn, and I’d like a comforter and some pillows.” No question who it was. My God, the authority in that voice! I nearly dropped the phone. So, I asked, what could we do to help, and was there a problem?

“Well, I do not have any credit cards, and you want me to pay you. Please send me two king-sized pillows and a queen-sized extra-plump goose-down comforter, and then I’ll send you a check.” Now I could see why our lead CSR asked for some help. Ms. Hepburn did say that she wanted the merchandise delivered to her brownstone in New York, and I recalled reading that she had a home in Manhattan. I took a deep breath and asked Ms. Hepburn if she could please hold for a moment, then I raced to another telephone and called the owner of our company. He said to have the order sent to his desk immediately. He was going to New York City that afternoon and wanted to deliver the gift-wrapped order to Ms. Hepburn in person.

And that is how our owner became an afternoon-tea guest of Ms. Hepburn’s and how, by word of mouth, we became the preferred supplier of bedding and pillows to all Ms. Hepburn’s friends — although we did not hand-deliver any of their orders. And in an age of do-not-call lists and grim customer service stories, it is also a story of how consumer direct marketing can make everyone a winner! We kept a copy of her check on the wall for quite a few years, and we all wondered whenever the telephone was ringing if it just might be a call from “you know who.”

Sunny Outlook On Past

I enjoyed your 20th Anniversary issue (April 15). In fact, I enjoy all your issues. This one was particularly delightful because of the walk down memory lane. My letter is triggered by a reference in your Editor’s Page where you state “I came across references to scores of catalogs that no longer exist and that, in fact, I have never even heard of: Sunnyland Gifts, Clymers of Bucks County, U.S. General Supply Corp., Synchronics.” I don’t know whether the Sunnyland you refer to is our catalog; on the chance that it is I wanted to acquaint you with us.

Your opening lines recall an event that occurred prior to the existence of Catalog Age. Out of the blue, President Nixon imposed wage and price controls in August 1971. At that point, our catalog was pretty much ready to go to press. Inflation being a considerable factor in those days, our prices were up noticeably from the previous year. Our printing deadline was close at hand, and the production shop we worked with in Atlanta (three-and-a-half hours away) was booked up. We were pretty desperate. After all, it seemed foolish to put out a catalog with prices that were guaranteed to produce a loss.

Fortunately our neighbor was a house designer. He had the necessary architectural tools for that trade. Borrowing these, my wife and I went to work cutting and pasting, creating new boxes with different weights, etc., and of course prices we could live with.

Now all catalog production is done in our offices with QuarkXPress. Thank goodness for no longer having a three-week stay in Atlanta.

Thanks again for your magazine and thanks for flushing out these memories.

Harry Willson, owner/chairman of the board
Sunnyland Farms

Santa Clara Seethes at Asphalt Jungle Allegation

California’s Santa Clara County’s parks department ordered customized polo shirts from Freeport, ME-based L.L. Bean. The outdoor gear and apparel cataloger was evidently impressed with the parks department’s sun/lake/pine tree logo and its slogan, “Go Outside and Play,” because L.L. Bean asked if it could feature the shirts in its next catalog. But when the catalog with models wearing Santa Clara County parks polos came out, the parks execs were less than impressed with the shot: two polo-clad models — a woman holding a broom and a man with a socket wrench in hand — standing on an asphalt playground. Sniffed one columnist in an editorial in the San José Mercury News, “There are no asphalt playgrounds in any of our 28 county parks, so they don’t need to be swept, and no one can recall the last time a piece of playground equipment needed its spark plugs replaced.”

The Postal Service Rocks. Really

We never thought that the Postal Service could be confused for a rock group. But Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello recently formed a band called, you guessed it, The Postal Service, which is making a splash on the alternative music scene. So what’s with the mail moniker? Seattle-based Gibbard and Los Angeles-based Tamborello — who at the time played in different bands — last year began mailing CDs of their music back and forth. The two then recorded an album together, naming their group after the mail agency because “the record relied on the Postal Service,” Tamborello told MTV earlier this year. “It wouldn’t have been made without it.” The synthesizer-driven, 1980s-meets-2000s technopop album, titled Give Up, reached number one on the CMJ college radio airplay chart, led by its first single, “Such Great Heights.” We have an idea for the name of their next group: Generation FedEx.

CONTACT US … or visit us on the Web at www.CatalogAgemag.com

Email mweinstein@primediabusiness.com
Phone 203-358-9900
Letter PO Box 4242, Stamford, CT 06907-0242
Fax 203-358-5823

Opinion and Response

The winners of the 18th Annual Catalog Awards and the 4th Annual I.Merchant Awards were announced at the Annual Catalog Conference in San Francisco on June 3, 2003. An in-depth look at the I.Merchant Award winners will appear in our August issue; profiles of the Annual Catalog Award winners will be featured in the September issue. In the meantime, the winners are…



Patagonia, Fall 2002


Gold: Orvis: Destinations, Summer 2002

Gold: The Territory Ahead, Spring 2002


Silver: Cintas, October 2002

Silver: Varsity, 2002

Silver: WearGuard: Outerwear Buyer’s Guide, Vol. B241


Gold: Galls, 2002 Buyer’s Guide

Silver: CMC Rescue Equipment, Catalog 122


Gold: Hanna Andersson, Holiday 2002

Silver: Museum Tour, 2002-2003 Annual Catalog


Silver: Black Box Network Services, 2002-2003 Annual Catalog


Gold: Orvis: The Dog Book, Holiday 2002

Gold: Patagonia, Winter 2002

Silver: Backroads, 2003-2004

Silver: Musician’s Friend: Annual Guitar and Stringed Instrument Issue, Sept. 2002

Silver: Wilderness Travel, Journeys for the Year 2003


Gold: Harry and David, January-March 2002

Gold: Harry and David, Season’s Greetings 2002

Silver: Harry and David, Cool Fruit 2002

Silver: Harry and David, Summer 2002


Silver: Jackson & Perkins Wholesale Inc., Roses for 2003

Silver: Prairie Nursery, Catalog & Growing Guide 2002

Silver: High Country Gardens, Spring 2003


Silver: Levenger, Spring 2002

Silver: Orvis: The Dog Book, Holiday 2002

Silver: The Sharper Image, The Gift Catalog 2002


Gold: Harry and David: It’s Not Too Late, 2002

Gold: Jackson & Perkins, Holiday Gifts 2002

Silver: Yankee Candle, Early Fall 2002


Silver: McFeely’s Square Drive Screws, #02G


Silver: Crutchfield, Fall Supplement 2002


Silver: Sure Fit Slipcovers by Mail, Spring 2002


Gold: New Pig: The Big Pigalog, 2003 Buying Guide


Silver: Don Johnston: 2003 Sourcebook

Silver: NFPA: Fire Alert, Winter 2002


Gold: New Pig: German Pigalog, 2003


Silver: Galls Vehicle Equipment, 02D

Silver: New Pig Facility Savers, March 2002


Silver: Boise Office Furniture: The Furniture Collection 2002


Gold: Patagonia, Fall 2002

Gold: Wilderness Travel, Journeys for the Year 2003

Silver: Yankee Candle, First Frost 2002


Gold: Orvis: The Sporting Tradition, Fall 2002


Gold: Catalyst Communication: 2002 Cycling Guide


Gold: Mountain Travel Sobek, 2003

Gold: Wilderness Travel, Journeys for the Year 2003

Silver: Austin-Lehman Adventures, 2003 Vacations

Silver: Backroads, 2003-2004


Silver: Backroads, 2003-2004

Silver: Hero Arts, 2002

Silver: Wilderness Travel, Journeys for the Year 2003





Silver: GTSI


Gold: Quill

Silver: WearGuard


Silver: Crutchfield

Silver: Musician’s Friend


Silver: Magellan’s

Silver: Wilderness Travel


Gold: eBags

Silver: Dutch Gardens

Silver: Orvis

CONTACT US … or visit us on the Web at www.CatalogAgemag.com

Email mweinstein@primediabusiness.com Phone 203-358-9900 Fax 203-358-5823 Letter PO Box 4242, Stamford, CT 06907-0242

Opinion and Response

Don’t Count Us Out

Just got your 20th anniversary edition of Catalog Age. Congratulations!

Looking through the issue I came across a chart entitled “Goodbye/Hello” on the bottom of page 29. In the chart you cite many list firms that have unfortunately gone out of business over the years. You also list companies that have been formed since 1983. Absent from that list is NRL Direct, which was established in 1988 and has been providing list brokerage and management services to some of the industry’s leading catalogers for the past 15 years.

These titles include Frontgate, Ballard Designs, Herrington, Johnston & Murphy, Paragon, Improvements, and Home Trends. I feel that NRL certainly should have been included among those companies mentioned.

Bruce J. Kimmel, vice president
NRL Management

Waxing On About Waxers

Having started out my advertising career in “cutting and pasting” in a local newspaper (where I eventually became the production manager), I got a kick out of your April 15 editorial (“20 Years’ Worth of Epiphanies”). I remember burnt fingers from the wax machine rollers….but going further back than you, I remember the women (and sometimes men) typing in copy that became yellow perforated tape (can’t remember the “official” name for that) that we fed through a Dymo machine (which when it broke, I was responsible for fixing!) that gave us the wet galleys that I would then cut and paste!

Our first big brochure here at Mokrynski & Associates emphasized the fact that we had OVERNIGHT DELIVERY and FACSIMILE MACHINES, which was big time back then. We live in an amazing era!

Thanks for the issue — it was very good!

Susan Zuniga, director of advertising
Mokrynski & Associates


Leon Henry, CEO of Scarsdale, NY-based list firm Leon Henry, on the overlap of the Annual Catalog Conference and the DMD New York conference this year:

Here’s a conundrum: How to get from the Annual Catalog Conference in San Francisco to New York in time to participate in the DMD New York Conference & Expo when both shows are going on at the same time.

There is an answer: the redeye. And there will be people doing this, but I will not. I will miss the DMD New York conference for the first time ever. I bring this up not to belabor the already obvious duplication of events and the extra expense for participants with catalog customers, but to point out some of the changes in our industry.

The first DMD was in the New York Hilton, where every one was held through 2001. It was low-key — no exhibits, plenty of time to schmooze. Appointments made weeks and months in advance did not consume the attention of attendees, and people actually made commitments for goods and services during impromptu meetings. Best of all, it was over after a very full day.

Over the years, the show expanded, adding one, then two, then three floors of exhibits. We were exhibitors starting in the second year. Some exhibitors were in the same place for the entire run at the Hilton — speaking of long-run theatrical experiences. New media came on board before it was designated as “new media.” Computers made their entrance; zip code went from five to nine digits, and e-mail and the Web became de rigueur.

Giveaways to build traffic at exhibits that became larger and higher became more elaborate and more competitive. Appointments were needed, and scorecards to keep track of them became laptops that became Palms and Blackberrys. Casual camaraderie became competitive, and business became a function of reviewing notes taken at the hectic meetings during the day that became three.

Throughout all the changes, Leon Henry has continued to attend the show, and the company will be at its 37th DMD New York in a new spot with a double booth. As I said earlier, I won’t be there, though. I’ll miss all of you but I can’t bring myself to do the redeye after all these years.

Fit to Be Tied in a New York Minute

Cataloger Lee Allison certainly has one-to-one marketing down pat, to judge from the following letter by Ruth Rama-Witt, which appeared in The New York Times’s “Metropolitan Diary” on May 5.

A few weeks ago I was shopping at a men’s store in the Flatiron district for a birthday present for my husband. Of course I had procrastinated, and his birthday was the next day. I was looking at the sale neckties and just couldn’t find one I liked. (Maybe that’s why they were on sale.) I turned to a well-dressed man next to me and asked if he thought the tie I was holding up would be too wild for my relatively conservative husband. Without hesitation, he confirmed that it would be.

Then he offered up one in return. “Yuck,” I said. Then I showed him another. “Nope,” was his reply. We played this game for a while until he finally said, “This is the tie you want,” as he pointed to the one he was wearing. “Exactly!” I said. Then he confessed that he was in fact a necktie designer named Lee Allison, visiting from Chicago. Since I seemed to be in such a time crunch, he even offered to sell me the tie right off his neck after saying that he’d just put it on for the first time that morning. But I also needed a gift box, which of course he didn’t have.

He then called his studio to see if he had another in stock — he did. Given my last-minute predicament, he offered to pay for overnight shipping to New York and gave me the name of his assistant, whom I could call directly to expedite the order. I was saved.

Back at my office, I visited his Website, just to make sure he was for real. And sure enough, he was not only legit, he had the most amazing ties, with the funniest stories for each one. And there was my tie, PowerDot in navy. I called the company, bought it and got it the next day, packaged in a perfectly square cube-size box (no ubiquitous tie box to give it away). My husband loved it almost as much as the story that came with it.

CONTACT US … or visit us on the Web at www.CatalogAgemag.com

Email mweinstein@primediabusiness.com
Phone 203-358-9900
Letter PO Box 4242, Stamford, CT 06907-0242
Fax 203-358-5823

Opinion and Response

‘Boss’ Editorial Is Cool Beans

I just wanted to take a minute to compliment you on the tenor and timbre of your March editor’s page essay (“…Same as the Old Boss?”). I think it shows real courage to speak your mind so freely and clearly in an industry forum.

I don’t often write letters of this nature, but your voice, as expressed in your writing, is very strong. I say “bravo!” to you.
Michael Utter executive manager, Documounts @ Frame Central, catalog division, Northwest Framing

A Divine Footnote

Your January cover article (“Divine Intervention”) presents an excellent explanation of the lawsuits filed by Divine against a number of retailers and catalogers conducting business on the Internet.

There is, however, a very interesting detail that was not discussed. Knowledgeable observers suggest that most small and midsize companies that have not themselves developed proprietary technology to power their Websites are indemnified from liability arising as a result of alleged infringement of Divine patents. Such companies are immune from patient infringement claims because their third-party technology vendors (software developers and service providers alike) are by contractual obligation and business convention responsible for adhering to relevant intellectual property laws.

Merchants are under no legal obligation to license Divine’s patents. But to prevent a possible court-imposed interruption of their Website operations (should Divine launch legal actions against their technology provider), merchants can quickly transition to the patent-compliant technologies of Companies such as Intershop, ePages, MacroMedia Live or available through service providers such as Ecofabric.
Roman Martynenko chief financial officer, Ecofabric

Delving Deeper into Divine Story

The articles in Catalog Age are very well written and informative. Regarding the article on a company called Divine: I actually called to speak to the writer, Mark Del Franco, about the story. Very rarely do I ever call a reporter for news. I found the information helpful and pertinent to our company and will be interested in hearing how the case is progressing. Thank you also for bringing the news to us each week with your e-newsletter.
Robin Sherwood president, Frecklefarm

Editor’s note: Divine filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Feb. 25 and was expected to sell off its assets to pay creditors. It was not clear at press time what would happen to the company’s Internet patents.

Also Turning 20

Catalog Age is in good company! Below are some catalogs that, like Catalog Age, launched in 1983:

American Spoon Foods
Ballard Designs
Bridge City Tool Works
Chadwick’s of Boston
The Company Store
Doctors Foster & Smith
Gardener’s Supply Co.
Hanna Andersson
Hold Everything
Road Runner Sports
J. Crew

Catalog Gag Gift Is Da Bomb for California Courthouse

Many consumers have personal items shipped to their place of work, but a Southern California judge’s catalog delivery in March caused a bomb scare. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, a superior court judge in Vista, CA, had ordered from a gifts cataloger a $27.50 grenade-shape paperweight with a number hanging from its pin and a sign on its base that reads “Free Legal Advice. Take a Number.” The unnamed cataloger was supposed to send the order to the judge’s personal post office box; instead, the grenade arrived at the courthouse via United Parcel Service and went through the X-ray machine, causing a sheriff’s deputy to evacuate 250 people for about an hour. The gag grenade, which the judge reportedly bought to use as a gift for an industry meeting, was taken away by a bomb-squad deputy. Too bad; we bet it would have been met with explosive laughter at the local Bar Association presentation.

No Props for Pottery Barn Pillow

A Catalog Age staffer received Pottery Barn’s Early Spring 2003 catalog and called March 1 to place an order. But alas, the kindly Pottery Barn rep who took the call said (while trying not to laugh) that the couch pillow shown on the back cover was not for sale but merely a prop. The staffer was disappointed — and surprised — since the oversize floral-on-black pillow was set dead in the middle of the product photo; it also carried through the black-and-white and flowers theme started on the front cover. About a month later, the staffer happened into her local Pottery Barn store, and lo and behold there was the pillow! As it turned out, the cushion had appeared in the cataloger’s Spring 2003 edition — which the staffer had received a few weeks after the Early Spring book but did not bother to look at. The staffer did end up buying the pillow — from the store — but what she’d really like to do is whack Pottery Barn over the head with it.

This month in Catalog Age…

Catalog Age marks its 20th anniversary this year. To celebrate, each month we’ll be looking back at some notable headlines from issues past:

  • Airline Videos to Follow in Footsteps of Co-op catalogs (May 1987)
  • Do customers Really Know Best? (May 1991)
  • Is the USPS Running Scared? (May 1992)
  • Mailers Gravitate to Gravure (May 1993)
  • Ooh La La — Luxury Is Back (May 1998)

CONTACT US … or visit us on the Web at www.CatalogAgemag.com

Email mweinstein@primediabusiness.com

Phone 203-358-9900

Letter PO Box 4242, Stamford, CT 06907-0242

Fax 203-358-5823

Opinion and Response


Even if you never grasped the basics of the Dewey Decimal System, you’ve got to love the Gaylord catalog of furniture and supplies for libraries. The 730-page 2003 master catalog is, in fact, a library of best practices for b-to-b marketers. There’s the opening spread highlighting new products and coupons worth more than $1,000; the color-coded table of contents and page headers; the exhaustive product line, which includes book trucks, media storage cabinets, archival supplies, and circulation desks; varied product presentations and easy-to-read copy blocks; free phone consultations with furniture design specialists; and a dedicated toll-free number for large-quantity bids. Seeing as Gaylord’s audience is librarians, we would be remiss if we didn’t single out the copy for special praise. It’s clean, concise, and jam-packed with benefits. The unique features of even commonplace products are singled out. The description of the Panasonic Electric Pencil Sharpener, for instance, notes that its “suction-cup feet anchor to any smooth surface”; the Stanley Bostitch sharpener “features auto-stop to prevent pencil waste.” If we were librarians, we’d file the Gaylord catalog in the reference section — or maybe on the special display table labeled “Noteworthy Reads.” And of course, we’d do it without talking.

Gift Wrapper’s Delight

Most gifts catalogers charge $4-$5 for gift wrapping. Some shoppers no doubt see this as a bargain for the convenience factor, while others may feel it’s a rip-off. Either way, the gift-giver who has the item sent directly to the recipient typically doesn’t know what the package will look like. Unless he’s shopping with the Williamsburg catalog, which has a small photo of exactly how its gift-boxed items appear. From what we can see, your Williamsburg gift will be gently nestled in black-and-white toile paper, tucked into a taupe gift box embossed with a silver Williamsburg logo, and tied with a white ribbon. Williamsburg charges $5.50 for this presentation, which ain’t cheap, but at least you know what you’re sending: a package that’s as elegant and understated as the catalog itself.

Barely Backordered

A Catalog Age staffer purchased a few items from apparel marketer J. Jill’s Website in late January. It was not until the checkout process that the system informed her that two of the six items were on backorder; it also did not state when the backordered items were expected to ship. Hoping that the items would not take too long to arrive, the staffer submitted the order. In her confirmation e-mail, the two backordered items were given an expected ship date of mid- to late March. Two days later, she received an e-mail from J. Jill stating that one of the backordered items had shipped — nearly a month and a half early! The next day, the staffer received another e-mail notifying her that the other backordered item had shipped as well. While the staffer was delighted at the unexpectedly speedy service, and indeed, ’tis far better to underpromise and overdeliver than the other way around, the strategy has its risks. For instance, if the staffer had been ordering a garment for a special occasion a month away, she would have immediately cancelled the order at the news that it would take six weeks to get the order in. And that would have been a shame if the garment were available within a few weeks — or days.

Don’t Call Us — Ever

No, you’re not the only one who is annoyed by former Playboy Playmate/millionaire widow-turned-reality TV star Anna Nicole Smith. In fact, Miss Smith recently won the dubious distinction of topping a poll of reality-show personalities whose calls consumers would most liked to have blocked or screened from their homes on Valentine’s Day — a day on which few want interruptions. The nationwide poll of 1,000 consumers was taken on behalf of data, voice, and Internet services provider SBC Communications. Survey participants, who were given a choice among various reality-TV stars, indicated that calls from the following celebrities were the most undesirable: Anna Nicole Smith (35%); Kelly Osbourne, punk-rock daughter of The Osbournes (21%); Evan Marriott, the recently minted half-millionaire in Joe Millionaire (10%); and Simon Cowell, the acerbic judge from American Idol (8%). For the record, we don’t want any reality-TV stars calling our homes, ever (except maybe Charlie from The Bachelorette).

Will the Real Sundance Please Stand Up?

The name Sundance conjurs up images of actor Robert Redford’s artsy Sundance Institute in Utah, its glitzy film festival, and of course, its lush catalog of Southwestern-inspired gifts and home decor. But did you know there’s another Sundance catalog, which sells literature-based learning tools for children grades PreK-6? Unless you’re a teacher, you probably didn’t. Although the two titles share the same name and even have lowercase type logos in a similar font, they’re far from separated at birth in terms of creative and merchandising. But if you happen to receive both books and are confused, the one with Redford’s photo is the gifts catalog.

CONTACT US … or visit us on the Web at www.CatalogAgemag.com

Email mweinstein@primediabusiness.com
Phone 203-358-9900
Letter PO Box 4242, Stamford, CT 06907-0242
Fax 203-358-5823

Opinion and Response


Steve Sorensen, menswear copy director of Warren, PA-based Blair Corp., on the importance of copy voice.

“Her voice was ever soft, gentle, and low — an excellent thing in woman.”
King Lear, act v, scene 3

I won’t argue with the Bard. I will add, however, that voice is an excellent thing wherever you find it. It is an excellent thing because it reveals identity. As written word, it gives the reader insight into the personality, the motivations, the integrity of the writer.

But while catalogs are well served by having a voice, few in today’s marketplace have a unique voice. Many factors convey the identity of a catalog, including company logo, photography, and copy style — but copy, by itself, is seldom distinctive enough to convey a catalog’s identity without the support of other elements.

Catalog voice is the product of synergy — a whole that is more than the sum of the parts, and what every marketer hopes his catalog is. Copy is not the whole voice of the catalog; it is a sign pointing to the character of the catalog, much the way clothing reveals something about a person or furnishings in a home indicate the interests and values of the family living there.

An impressive example of this synergy can be found in The Territory Ahead. Founded in 1988, this clothing catalog is thoroughly distinctive in a variety of ways. Anyone who thinks that “voice” in a catalog depends on the style of the copy alone should study how all the elements in the list below are indispensable to the creation not of a copy voice but of a catalog voice:

  • The Territory Ahead offers a collection of unique merchandise, designed and developed with a strong image and identity.
  • The catalog communicates personality, offering clothing for a specific kind of customer.
  • The clothing has a distinctive presentation, with dramatic photography on scenic locations suitably themed to match its rugged spirit.
  • The product copy is entertaining and celebrates the maverick spirit and allure of wide-open spaces as personified by Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn: “Well, I reckon I got to light out for the territory ahead of the rest because Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and civilize me and I can’t stand it. I been there before.”

The following description of the Crisscross Cord Shirt is a typical example of The Territory Ahead copy. Note how all the elements described above are integrated by the copy into a distinctive, coherent catalog voice. It fits the catalog theme; it describes a distinct product; and it includes background, humor, geographic references, fantasy or imagination, and even a made-up word:

If you’re shy, this isn’t the shirt for you. The fabric — a richly colored, cross-hatched cotton corduroy — is so supremely soft and texturey it has a tendency to attract unsolicited attention from complete strangers. In fact, when our Director of Human Resources wore it on a recent trip to Denver, an otherwise well-mannered young woman with a French accent had to be gently dissuaded from stroking his sleeve long enough for him to board his plane home. The aforementioned gentleman, who is not shy, has requested we carry it in additional colors next season…

Because this copy block is well written and interesting, it is easy to overlook its length. And fully two-thirds of the copy is devoted not to direct description, but rather to an image — the romance of the product and the experience of wearing it.

Moreover, the copy starts by qualifying the customer with the negative “this isn’t the shirt for you.” The negative is risky, but here it implies exclusivity, leaving the customer little choice but to become involved and to continue reading. He sees lots of background, a buildup, a story line, a plot, characters — who wouldn’t want that shirt?

Voice is indeed, as Shakespeare says, an excellent thing. In a catalog it will be the shopper’s escort. It will have the liberty to bring the reader’s attention to the important things, and to steer it away from the unimportant. It will fan the spark of interest into flames of benefit. It will motivate. It will close the sale.

Does Sears Need a Lands’ End Service Lesson?

Its new parent company, Sears, may be selling Lands’ End items in its stores, but don’t expect the same stellar service for which the Dodgeville, WI-based apparel mailer is renowned. A relative of a Catalog Age staffer bought a pair of Lands’ End pants in her local Sears store in December. The customer brought the pants home, removed the tags, and then realized they were the wrong size, so she took them back to her Sears store. Although the customer had the receipt, the salesclerk told her that she couldn’t return the pants, asking in a very un-Lands’ End way, “How do I know you didn’t buy them somewhere else?” The customer fared much better calling the apparel cataloger directly; she was transferred to a coordinator between Lands’ End and Sears, who then transferred her to a sales manager for the women’s department of her local Sears store. The manager told the customer to come back to the store, where the manager would either find the right size for her or give her a credit for Lands’ End to ship her the pants in the right size — with no charge for shipping and handling. Now that’s more like it.

Cheesy Exposure for Grainger

Here’s an unlikely spot to promote an industrial products cataloger: on a box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. But Lake Forest, IL-based marketer W.W. Grainger, sponsor of NASCAR driver Greg Biffle, nonetheless appears on the pasta’s packaging, since Biffle appears on the box in a jumpsuit bearing the Grainger imprint. Grainger is getting a lot of mileage from the Biffle sponsorship, as the driver and his jumpsuit have appeared on the cover of TV Guide and on ESPN earlier this year. For its part, Grainger is giving the NASCAR navigator some alternative exposure of its own, putting Biffle in its catalog, in its print advertisements, and on its Website. No word on whether Biffle was required to say “Cheese!”

A Picture Worth $1 Million Words

By now, the tawdry secret of TV’s Joe Millionaire — that “star” Evan Marriott is not really a new-moneyed nice guy but a truth-challenged construction worker — has been revealed. But it seems Marriott previously revealed plenty moonlighting as an underwear model for cataloger/Website California Muscle. According to Website SmokingGun.com, Marriott did a photo shoot for the Los Angeles-based menswear marketer in November 2001, modeling such flashy unmentionables as a $12.99 Gladiator Brief, a $26 Posing Suit (?), and a $36 Arabian Boxer. We can’t speak for the girls vying for his affections on the ribald “reality” show, but it was clear to us from the get-go that Marriott was a big poseur.

CONTACT US … or visit us on the Web at www.CatalogAgemag.com

Email mdowling@primediabusiness.comPhone 203-358-9900 ▪ Fax 203-358-5823

Letter P.O. Box 4242, Stamford, CT 06907-0242

Opinion and Response

A Rosy Tribute to Cesar Chavez

Marking the first time that Jackson & Perkins has named one of its roses after a Latino figure, the plants cataloger has introduced the Cesar E. Chavez rose. The bright red hybrid tea is named for the founder of the United Farm Workers (UFW) union, who died in 1993. Jackson & Perkins, part of Medford, OR-based multititle mailer Bear Creek Corp., will donate 10% of sales from the rose to the Cesar E. Chavez Foundation, a nonprofit organization that educates people about Chavez’s life and work. Ironically, Bear Creek spent more than 20 years battling with the union as it tried to mobilize the rose grower’s workers to join forces. Even after the union won in 1994, relations remained thorny, but the cataloger and the union settled their grievances in 1996, and the relationship slowly began to thrive. No doubt the bouquet Bear Creek tossed the workers in the form of the Chavez rose has gone a long way in mending the fences.

See Jane Design

Celebrity models aren’t new to catalogs, but celebrity designers? Women’s apparel catalog Crossing Pointe, from Warren, PA-based Blair Corp., announced this spring that actress Jane Seymour was designing a line of clothing for the title. The moderately priced Jane Seymour Signature Collection includes a sunflower pin for $19.99, a silk doupioni lab coat for $59.99, and a beaded silk dress for $89.99. Seymour, a James Bond girl from the 1973 movie Live and Let Die, spent six years in the mid-1990s as TV’s Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. In a statement posted on the catalog’s Website, Seymour says: “Working with Crossing Pointe on a women’s fashion line fulfills a lifelong aspiration for me.” That’s funny — we bet there are several apparel catalog designers who secretly aspire to be movie stars.

Lands’ End Says Hello, Neuman

Apparel cataloger Lands’ End used an unlikely cover model for its March edition: Mad magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman. Mad’s gap-toothed, jug-eared, freckle-faced mascot is showcasing the cataloger’s $18 cotton Super Polo Shirt, which the copy says will provide such carefree comfort that wearers will be saying “What — me worry?” Lands’ End no doubt knew that Alfred E. would be a hit with its baby-boomer audience, but the edition’s popularity may have surpassed the Dodgeville, WI-based mailer’s expectations. The March catalog has already turned up as a collector’s item on eBay. No wonder Neuman is never worried.

Pretty Is As Pretty Does

Wisteria, “a catalog of antiques and decorative items for house and garden,” is without question a gorgeous book. But it has a beautiful mind as well. Not only does Wisteria donate part of its money to charity, the cataloger also tells you where the funds went. A blurb in the spring edition reads: “Last issue we committed part of the money from your purchases of wicker baby chairs to an organization called Common Hope. Together, you came up with enough money to build two houses in Guatemala…” Another nice touch: The Dallas-based company’s founders were on their way home from France on Sept. 11 and were grounded — with about 80,000 other fliers — in St. John’s Bay, Newfoundland. The catalog devotes ample space to telling the story and thanking the people of St. John’s Bay; it also notes that part of the sales of a product, a zinc sculpture of a goose, will likely go to the Salvation Army of Canada.

Hang It Up, Guys

Ink-jet personalization can be a wonderful thing — if it’s done properly. And that can be a pretty big if, since an inappropriate or misdirected message can backfire. A Catalog Age staffer and her husband each received the spring edition of home care products cataloger Home Trends, both copies of which had the same ink-jet message. The offer was fine for a woman, but does a man really want to read “Dear Andrew: Satin hangers protect your delicate garments. Now on sale — 8 for $10.50…” Men are always encouraged by women to hang up their clothes, “delicate garments” or otherwise, but somehow we doubt pushing padded, pastel-colored hangers with little bow collars is the way to make them do it.

Sweaty Situation for Shakira

When Latin American pop princess Shakira agreed to pose for the cover of a recent Delia’s catalog, it seemed a win-win situation. The one-time stint increased the Colombia-born singer’s visibility in the U.S., while the teen girls’ apparel marketer got to ride Shakira’s rising star just as her album was climbing the charts. But the sweet deal quickly soured when allegations arose that Delia’s clothing came from sweatshops — specifically, from the Brooklyn, NY-based Danmar Finishing, which has been accused of forcing employees to work unpaid overtime. Danmar had once supplied apparel to a manufacturer that worked with Delia’s, but the New York-based cataloger/retailer says it had stopped working with that company and that the clothes Shakira modeled were not made at Danmar. Shakira immediately released a statement that she was unaware of the dispute with Danmar and that she would “never knowingly wear any clothes or support any company who produced clothing with alleged wage and labor violations…” What must make this bad situation worse for the singer is that many of the Danmar workers hail from Latin America. On the brighter side — for the workers, at least — the flack prompted the U.S. Department of Labor to sue Danmar for unfair labor practices in May.

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Opinion and Response

A Gaffe of Biblical Proportions

I would like to respond to your Backword item (“Sell Me, Don’t Save Me,” January issue) regarding our use of the Biblical quote on Sierra Trading Post’s Winter 2001 order form. You state that our quote was placed there either to leverage off the “boosted interest in spirituality…” due to the tragic events of Sept. 11 or as a “lovely sentiment… during the holiday season.” Neither statement is true. We have placed a quote from Jesus on every order blank since our first mailing in 1986. Likewise, we have always printed our three “We believe” statements on page two, particularly no. 3: “That our business ethics must be consistent with the faith of the owners in Jesus Christ and His teachings.”

These two brief statements in the context of an entire catalog are not an attempt to force anyone to accept my beliefs. They are merely expressions of who I am, what I believe, and an invitation to be held accountable. If I hold my beliefs in private, how would this enable our customers to hold me accountable for living and operating my business consistently with what I believe?
Keith Richardson
president/founder, Sierra Trading Co.

Warm Words from a ‘Scentsative’ Subject

After the New Year holiday, I returned to my desk to find my name in the January Backword (“Scents and Sensibility”). What a neat surprise! In light of all the [anthrax in the mail] hoopla, I was happy to set the record straight about the smell this particular customer experienced with the Crate & Barrel catalog.

The office is teasing me because my name was spelled incorrectly, but I remind everyone that no good deed goes unnoticed! When I was talking to this particular individual, I jokingly mentioned that I hoped this would not appear in the pages of Catalog Age. Be careful what you wish for…

I really enjoy the magazine and find it a helpful resource tool. Keep up the good work!
Nancy Cushman
catalogue production manager, Crate & Barrel

High Praise for Editor’s Page

Regarding your January Editor’s Page (“It Beats Counting Sheep”), thank you for one of the freshest, most interesting articles that I have ever taken time to read. Your observations/questions hit more bull’s-eyes without the typical “blah blah.”
Carl Kramer
marketing manager, Gilson Co.

Gettin’ Juggy with It

It sounds like a high-tech hoax in a Benny Hill skit: British general merchandise retailer Debenhams recently had to shut down its Website to fix an embarrassing glitch in the search function. When users typed in the search word “jugs,” presumably to look for milk pitchers and the like, the saucy search engine displayed listings of the online store’s bras. Word of the titillating tracking system spread like wildfire among U.K. Webheads and their friends via e-mail. Debenhams said it was an unfortunate coincidence that the assigned search code for a selection of products — including the bras — just happened to be JUG or JUGS. Needless to say, the red-faced retailer has since changed the code.

Is the Sword Mightier Than the Machete?

Maybe it’s just us, but when we think of Lord of the Rings-themed merchandise, we think of kids or adults who played Dungeons and Dragons for way too long — not hardcore hunters and military enthusiasts. So it was a bit of a surprise this past winter when we noticed that the home page of the U.S. Cavalry site featured a Lord of the Rings sword. Unlike the other weaponry sold in the catalog, the officially licensed reproduction of the sword from the hit movie is for display only — we think, anyway. It seems the sword has magic pricing powers as well: When we first saw the item on the site in early January, it sold for $139.88; when we went back to check it 11 days later, the price was $149.88. (Even more strange, when we went back to the site the second time it said “Save $70” under the product on the home page.)

Radio Shack Not Good Buddy to Truckers

We spend most of our time trying not to anger the people driving 18-wheelers, but it seems that Radio Shack has stuck its head in the lion’s mouth. In a sales catalog mailed around New Year’s, the electronics retailer included the following copy: “You’re on your wireless, when suddenly an 18-wheeler is in your lane, cutting you off! Good thing you had both hands on the wheel, thanks to the hands-free wireless headset from Radio Shack…” After a flurry of angry replies from truckers — ironically, among the retailer’s best customers — the company issued a statment on Jan. 2: “We sincerely apologize to members of the trucking profession…. In the future we commit to showing more sensitivity….” We think there’s way too much political correctness in the world today, but we recognize that Radio Shack had its hands tied, if you will, on this one. After all, the company is no doubt relying on said truckers to get the hands-free headsets to its stores.

CONTACT US …or visit us on the Web at www.CatalogAgemag.com

e-mail: ehansen@primediabusiness.com

letter: PO Box 4242, Stamford, CT 06907-0242

phone: 203-358-9900

fax: 203-358-5823