Two Canadian Mailers Ponder US Market Potential

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HALIFAX/TORONTO - Two Canadian catalogers are testing the US market for their goods that range from golf accessories to maple syrup and smoked salmon and both profess to be encouraged by early results.

Golfinn of Toronto dropped 30,000 catalogs in the US last fall and, said vice-president Jane Finn, "while we are still evaluating the response we are quite happy with our first foray in the US. We are planning to repeat the mailing but probably not until next fall.

"We used a 32 page digest size full color catalog that was produced in Canada for the US including setting up a special arrangement so we could accept payment in US dollars. We know Americans don't convert currencies as easily as we do up here in Canada."

The company sells a "lot of personalized items" related to golf - golf awards, pictures, desk accessories, glassware, clothing, and shoe bags.

"We've started testing golf clubs, which is a new type of product for us, but we are starting to branch out and offer more in the way of equipment and things you need to play golf."

Golfinn has been in business for eight years and does most of its selling by mail throughout Canada. A small company, it recently hit the C$1 million sales mark, a figure it hopes to top substantially via US sales.

"We mailed to a variety of different lists that we knew had mail order buying behavior and an interest in golf." She cited such US publications as Golf Magazine, Golf, Golf Digest and Women in Golf.

The next US test, Finn said, would aim at pockets the initial test found more responsive than other regions. The areas chosen would depend on the final test analysis results.

In Halifax the Marine Trading Company is readying a US mailing later this year, perhaps in the fall or closer to the Christmas season. Spring is too early, Kent Groves explained, because he is planning a Canadian mailing.

The company has a retail store in Halifax's historic district, which is something of a tourist Mecca and as a result it has sold product worldwide both through catalogs and on the Internet,

"We've never done a full-fledged US campaign or prospected for names although we have a fairly good following in the US just from customers who have bought regularly from us."

Maritime Trading is a "traditional supplier" of all kinds of East Coast Canadian products. "We sell everything from maple syrup to wooden buckets including smoked salmon, jams and jellies," Groves said.

The store draws a lot of New Englanders, partly because Halifax and Boston are "sister cities" and Nova Scotia's capital has become a "pretty hot tourist destination. It's a good way to stretch your buck."

Over time Maritime Trading has built up a modest list of 5,000 US buyers with 2,000 having bought in the last 12 months. It's not a large list, Groves conceded, but said it was "very responsive."

Catalogs sent out now are priced in Canadian dollars and "we are toying with two options for a full blown test - one in Canadian currency, the other in US dollars. We haven't decided yet which would be most cost effective."

On the list side the company has some experience with US list companies, having rented Canadian names and "we could do the reverse without too much trouble."

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