Catalog Conference to Focus on Start-Ups, Spin-Offs

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Educational sessions at the 17th Annual Catalog Conference and Exhibition, which begins Monday at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, will focus on the needs of new and small catalogers.


For the first time, the event -- which is expected to draw more than 6,000 attendees -- will include a full-day workshop on Monday geared toward start-up and small catalog companies. Jack Schmid, president of J. Schmid & Associates Inc., Shawnee Mission, KS, will lead the catalog start-up workshop. Seven other pre-show workshops are scheduled for Monday.


Last year, one session track focused on new catalogs, while another track addressed small catalogs. The tracks have been combined for this year's event.


"We combined them because so many of the issues they face are similar: trying to maximize limited resources, working on shoestring budgets, developing marketing partnerships to boost awareness, etc.," said Michaela Shank, who programmed the sessions. Shank is manager of conference programming at the Direct Marketing Association, New York.


Eight sessions throughout the conference focus on the issues and roadblocks that face small and new catalogers, including testing strategies, how to delve successfully into the e-commerce arena, and a two-part creative session, as well as a session designed for ad agencies working with spin-offs and start-ups.


And as the Internet continues to shake up business at traditional catalog companies, the DMA -- which is one of the show's sponsors -- has increased Internet-related sessions by 30 percent to 40 percent this year, Shank said.


Josh Moritz, partner at Earle Palmer Browne Direct, New York, is scheduled to lead a session targeted to online catalog start-ups on June 29. The key to an e-tailer's success is offline back-end marketing, according to Moritz.


"Not all pure plays know how to successfully integrate their online and offline efforts in order to be successful," Moritz said.


For example, traditional print catalogers know that the bounce back catalog -- the catalog that is sent in a product shipment -- produces high reorder rates, sometimes as high as 25 percent, he said.


However, the Internet is just one concern for new catalog endeavors.


"The points of interest are all around the block," said Art Dupree, president of start-up Platinum Beef & Seafood Co., Bonne Terre, MO, who has helped lead a session geared to start-ups for three years. Dupree, who recently left bison and beef marketer SayersBrook American Gourmet, Potosi, MO, said this year's session will cover creative, operations and marketing.


Other conference tracks across more than 100 sessions include business-to-business, creative/production, e-commerce, customer file and prospecting, fulfillment, customer service and operations, management and strategic issues, marketing strategies, merchandising, and executive forums. The conference will run through June 29.


The customer file track offers more advanced sessions than were offered in previous years.


"We're trying to get into more of the customer segmentation opportunities that database marketing presents for catalogers rather than just customer lists," Shank said.


Los Angeles Times columnist Jaclyn Easton will deliver the opening keynote address June 27 on overcoming the challenges of doing business online and how to increase Web revenues. Karen Leland, co-founder of Sterling Consulting Group and co-author of "Customer Service for Dummies," will give a keynote address June 26 on how to use technology to manage customer relationships. Another keynote speaker, Hanover Direct President/CEO Rakesh K. Kaul, will address the conference June 28 on how e-commerce has changed his company's direction.


The exhibit hall, which opens June 26, will feature approximately 675 booths, up from 565 last year, according to Ed Berkowitz, director of sales at Intertec Exhibitions, Stamford, CT, which co-sponsors the conference.


"It's the largest increase from one year to the next in size we've ever had," Berkowitz said. "The dot-com companies are a prevailing force with the amount of space they've taken up at the show."
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