Fredrick in Mexico, Plans Brazil Test this Fall
"We've been looking at Latin America as our next area for expansion," the company's President and CEO, Paul Sacher, explained. "We're looking at Argentina, Brazil and Colombia and hope to test Brazil this fall or at Christmas.
"Our company is a men's wear catalog that tends to feature stylish executive wear. Latin American executives still dress well. They care about what they wear and they are a lot less casual than many Americans are today."
Most important, Sacher believes, is the fact that Latin American men "desire to have and wear American fashions."
Sacher uses the USPS' Global Package Link Service to Mexico and is reasonably satisfied both with USPS and the Mexican Post Office, Mexpost.
"Mexpost is always aware when we have been making a catalog distribution and that has helped to make sure that our books get to their destination. They've been a big help in getting started.
"We think things are going well. However, there are still some problems with the startup we are trying to work out. Yes, this is our first time in the Mexican market." Sacher declined to detail the problems he faced.
The catalog text is in Spanish but for the rest is a copy of the American book. Prices are in dollars and payment is made through dollar-denominated credit cards.
"It is a limited universe," Sacher conceded," but it is definitely worthwhile, otherwise we would not have gone into that market."
Sacher hired a Mexican copy writer to adapt the text to the Mexican market, but had the catalog printed by Randall-Schmidt in Wisconsin.
He also set up a small call center in Mexico City to handle orders and to answer customer questions. Operators were trained to know the Paul Fredrick product line. All of them are bilingual in Spanish and English.
"We do a limited amount of advertising," he said, "and for the rest we rely on direct mail - that is mailing out the catalog to potential customers."
Lists were a problem, he said, as they are for all American mailers doing business outside the US. But he refused to discuss procurement of lists for his Mexican mailings.
Expanding further into Latin America, Sacher noted, involves solving a lot of logistical problems and dealing with customs and other regulations.
He plans to mail an English language book into Brazil with a Portuguese order form, at least initially. "I always recommend using the native language," he said, "but our initial Brazilian volume will be too small so a translation is not financially viable."
He is testing a variety of approaches in Mexico, rolling out the successful variants and reworking the others. As one of the first "new" US catalogers to go into Mexico after the peso crisis is he something of a pioneer?
"Entrepreneurs are risk takers," he shrugged, "and I put myself in the entrepreneurial category. I always believed that you have to take risks if you are going to be more than average."
Paul Fredrick has overseas operations in Japan and the UK but "we mail all over the world, perhaps to 100 countries. We look for the best market for the product and for the best mail order."
Some countries have the needed DM infrastructure, "but it is not always there so sometimes you have to create it."