"Boring" catalogs reason for soft sales: LaPierre

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Catalogers are starting to complain that sales have been soft since Labor Day and Bill LaPierre, SVP at Millard/Mokrynski Group, thinks he knows why.

"You are boring customers to death," LaPierre told a room full of catalogers during his presentation yesterday at the New England Mail Order Association's fall conference in Portland, ME.

Focusing on catalog and Internet presentation, LaPierre, known for his acerbic wit, pointed out that many catalogers are giving the same weight to all of their products and not doing enough to help customers focus on best-sellers or differentiating details.

As a result, catalogers "are not giving [customers] the direction, the reason to buy," LaPierre said. "You can't be afraid to sell and help customers figure out which products are best for them," he continued.

Examples of catalogs lacking direction included recent covers of both Costume Express and Lilly's Kids, which featured a well-known licensed brand û The Power Rangers û even though both companies have numerous proprietary consumers. "They should have had the courage to feature unique product," LaPierre said.

In other examples, a spread inside a recent Caswell Massey catalog was dedicated to soaps and gave the exact same visual treatment to every bar of soap while Dover Saddlery dedicated six pages to hard hats, with no hero shots or call-outs to indicate special features.

One way to give direction to a catalog was supplied by the example of Cuddledown, which had reprinted in its catalog comments made by The New York about one of its products. Another was Support Plus, which uses a schematic to call out the benefits of its moccasin. Still another was Monastery Greetings, which dedicates three full pages to Trappist Preserves, one of its best-selling products. Or Brookstone, which has one hero shot on every spread.

"You need to rekindle that interest in your products that you have but that customers don't necessarily have every time you mail," LaPierre said.

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