Cataloger Boosts Pages, Items in Bid for Higher Response

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A business-to-business marketer of wholesale apparel added eight pages to its recently mailed catalog -- raising the book's average per-piece cost from 80 cents to $1 -- as it looks for an increased response rate in 2004.


SanMar Corp., Preston, WA, mailed its 44-page Ladies Edition 2004 book Jan. 2, going via First-Class mail for recipients east of the Mississippi River and bulk mail west of the Mississippi. It targeted 50,000 promotional-product distributors, embroiderers and screen printers that buy apparel in bulk and place logos on the merchandise for sale to end users. They include people who wear company-logoed clothes in the workplace as well as members of school- and community-based groups and clubs.


The most significant addition to the 11-by-8 3/8-inch catalog is maternity apparel, a section that was printed on 80-pound paper also used for the front and back covers instead of the 60-pound paper used elsewhere in the book. This four-page section measured 10 by 8 3/8 inches.


"The addition of more styles, including maternity offerings, is a direct result of growth in our ladies business," said Lee Strom, the company's senior marketing manager. "Using a different-sized page for the maternity collection allowed us to make it a distinctive section for a new collection.


"Adding maternity clothing was an idea that came from our customers. It's a statement that we can outfit women no matter what their apparel needs happen to be. It allows them to be part of a team or staff and fit in the office environment. We listened and developed three styles."


The three styles, each occupying a page, include the 3/4 Sleeve V-Neck T-Shirt and Split Placket Sport Shirt, each priced at $25.98 and available in early March. Appearing on the front and back pages of the section is the Easy Care Shirt at $43.98, available in late March.


Prices in the book are suggested end-user prices. Almost 65 percent of the books distributed include prices while the rest were printed without them. SanMar sales representatives negotiate prices with customers based on order size.


Also new is a two-page spread at the back of the catalog devoted to outerwear, including a Casual Microfiber Jacket and All-Season Jacket.


Another change this year was the mailing's timing. The Ladies Edition 2003 version hit the mail last year in April.


"This industry is very front-loaded with trade shows in the first three months of the year, and by having a new catalog in our customers' hands before they see us at the shows, it gives us a fresh story to sell," Strom said.


Added to page 3 this year was a second index listing brands such as Anvil, Badger, Bella, Hanes, Nautica, Outer Banks, Ping and the company's house brand, Port Authority Ladies.


The SKU total in the 2003 book was 51 compared with this year's 71. The book's 71 style numbers, and the pages they appear on, were in the new index.


"This provides a quick reference for our customers," Strom said. "It's a BTB audience, so they're often speaking in terms of style numbers. So if you need an L360, it's a way to say it's the Port Authority Cardigan."


Along with items in the two new sections, Strom hopes to see several top-sellers, including: the new Port Authority Open Neck Blouse ($29.98); and the ensemble on page 4 that includes the Sport-Tek Fleece Full Zip Hooded Sweatshirt ($25.98) and the accompanying Sport-Tek Fleece Pant ($21.98).


Unchanged from a year ago is the book's circulation total and a 75-25 split with the house file outnumbering prospects. Most prospects are generated via referrals and trade shows leads with list use described as "minimal and not as fruitful."


Page 2 continues to depict four women wearing apparel in various sizes with size charts at the bottom.


"The average order size is projected to be flat with the year-ago book, and the response rate is projected to increase significantly," said Strom, who didn't provide specific numbers regarding either category in terms of last year's performance or this year's projections.


While the company's toll-free number, toll-free fax number and Web site, www.sanmar.com, appear on the back cover, orders handled via phone outnumber those generated online with the fax option producing minimal totals. The free freight offer for regular price orders exceeding $200 remains.


The company also produces Team Apparel and all-inclusive catalogs.


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