Genesis Direct Drops First European Catalog

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Deck: Sports Book Targets France, UK and Germany

SECAUCUS, NJ - Genesis Direct launched a "USA Pro Sports" catalog last month targeted at European and American expatriate football, baseball and hockey enthusiasts in France, Germany and the UK.

The catalog was developed in conjunction with the European offices of the three leagues - the NFL, the NHL and Major League Baseball -- and offers a wide range of team merchandise unavailable or hard to find in Europe.

It is the company's first venture abroad, although Edward Wallo, Genesis Vice President International, has been exploring catalog possibilities in Europe from his base in Windsor, the UK, for more than a year.

Wallo sees "an enormous opportunity for sales of licensed American team and league merchandise" outside the US. He credits the proliferation of media and the effort of US sports league for growing interest in US sports in Europe.

"We are the media base of the world anyway," he said, "with NBC Europe on the air and Sky Sports with five channels across Europe and CNN that carries sports. They all have this time to fill and US sports helps them do it.

"The leagues have done a lot. They bring over US football teams. They've had a European basketball tournament in Paris and there are all kinds of grass roots programs to teach kids in Europe how to play baseball.

"Michael Jordan is a household term in those countries. When he went to Paris last October for a tournament he attracted something like 1,20o press people and generated a huge amount of ink."

The phenomenon of youngsters picking up sports from other cultures "that used not to happen" is another spark. "Because of media and travel you do get kids 10, 12 and 15 doing American sports."

Finally Wallo cites the expat group in the three target countries. Some 216,000 Americans live in the UK, 130,000 in Germany and 86,000 in France. "You have almost half a million in the heart of Europe many of which would be a natural audience."

While Wallo would not reveal the number of books he dropped in the three countries late last month, he noted that the drop "vastly exceeded" USPS' offer to help catalogers with the first 25,000 catalogs used in a test.

Target audiences were developed along several tracks. "We worked in cooperation with the leagues to get names. We initiated a kind of joint marketing program with niche market magazines aimed at sports lovers.

"We used several list brokers to get lists depending on the country we targeted. We also used alternative distribution like piggybacking on magazines sold at newsstands, something we used mostly in the UK."

Wallo explained that in Great Britain newsstands have something like a hammerlock on periodical sales since the subscription business is not well developed, and said "we may do that in all three countries."

Genesis Direct has outsourced order handling to a European call center. Catalog merchandise is priced in pounds, francs and German marks with fulfillment from the US via the USPS's Global Package Link service.

"We have a 500,000 square foot warehouse in Memphis. We tested delivery the week before we dropped with a handful of test packages sent out on Monday April 20. I got mine on Saturday of the same week."

Wallo did not use an agency to develop German and French catalogs but a network of free lancers and consultants who did the needed translating and rewriting. "I got people in local markets to do everything."

He did use the UK-based Judith Donovan Agency, JDA, for running small space ads in all three markets.

"I don't believe there is a huge audience for a catalog of this kind, but one exists and it is growing."

Items in the book come from Genesis Direct's 1-800 PRO-TEAM as well as other brands including Manny's Baseball Land, From The Sidelines, Hot Off The Ice and Nothin' But Hoops.

"As with all Genesis Direct sports catalogs, consumers will find complete support for their sports lifestyle including apparel, collectible and decorative items," a corporate statement said.

Wallo noted that the US leagues themselves have said "that international is an important strategic growth area for them in the future."

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