CatalogCity Hubs Improve International Fulfillment

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CatalogCity.com will open two trans-shipment hubs handling shipments to Europe and Asia in September to facilitate international order fulfillment for its clients. A Latin American hub has been in soft launch for three months.


"The Web is a global phenomenon. Anyone who puts up a Web site and offers products for sale, they're now exposing those product offers to everyone around the world. So now the next step is, how do you efficiently fulfill those," said Lee Lorenzen, president/CEO of CatalogCity.com, Pacific Grove, CA.


Lorenzen would not release how many packages have been shipped via the Latin American hub "due to the early stage of the deal," but he said "the potential during the next 18 months is in excess of 1 million products ordered for Latin American customers," said Lorenzen.


CatalogCity is designed to foster online shopping malls, said Lorenzen. The site links catalogers, sites such as Yahoo and Excite, as well as www.catalogcity.com, and consumers.


CatalogCity lists 17,000 catalog titles, mostly based in the United States. Purchases can be made from 750 of those catalogs, compared to 400 in 1998 when the site was launched. CatalogCity hopes to grow that number to 1,000 merchants by year-end.


The company garners a 15 percent to 20 percent commission on catalog sales, which it shares with the portal sites.


Dubbed the TransExpress system, the hubs are designed to alleviate catalogers of the burden of coordinating with the shipper to determine prices for international shipping and customs costs.


"That was too much work to expect all the merchants to do ... so we create an alias address for the consumer in Miami for every consumer in Latin America who signs up," Lorenzen said.


A consumer in Mexico, for example, can buy flatware from Crate and Barrel and have it sent to her virtual address in Miami. Once there, the package is weighed, inspected and customs fees are calculated before the product is delivered to the customer.


Indeed, this seems like a good service for catalogers, especially smaller ones who often have trepidation about promoting in foreign countries, said Tim Litle, chairman at back-end services provider OrderTrust, Lowell, MA.


"The problems for a cataloger [trying] to give good customer service to a non-American consumer has a whole bunch of pieces to it, including the landed costs that the consumer expects," he said. "Most catalogs assume it's a cost in the book plus the shipping schedule, and of course there's a lot more put on it including duties and customs."


CatalogCity doesn't charge catalogers to use TransExpress. Consumers who use this service are typically buying products they can get only in the United States or that are more expensive in the countries in which they live, Lorenzen said. They pay only for customs and international shipping charges.


The European hub is located in New Jersey and the Asian hub is located in Los Angeles.


The system will eventually allow American consumers to purchase from European and Japanese catalogers and online retailers, according to Lorenzen. European products will be exported to the United States from London, and Japanese products will be exported from Tokyo.


During the testing of the Latin American shipment center, CatalogCity discovered that many consumers who reside in the United States used the service to register friends or family members who live in Latin America on their behalf, so those consumers can send products to them. While TransExpress is designed to allow for registration of other customers, "we didn't really anticipate it being used in this way," said Lorenzen.


"If I have an uncle who lives in Brazil, then I can add him to my address book and create this service for him, and he can receive a package at his door from a U.S. merchant without him having to proactively create the account on his own behalf," Lorenzen said.


Within the next three weeks, CatalogCity intends to change its name to Altura International. The site also offers gift registry and gift reminder services.
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