Cataloger Rebounds From Early September Mailing

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The Republic of Tea has bounced back from a sales slump that began right after its September catalog arrived in consumers homes at the time of the terrorist attacks.


"The catalog ... dropped right before the 11th, landed around the 11th, and we saw our catalog orders go soft," said Stuart Gold, chief operating officer of the Novato, CA-based company. "I'd say that the first 10 or 15 days of the mailing were probably off by 35 percent. We started back up and regained most of the lost ground and [reached normal sales levels] as we moved to the end of the month."


Gold said front-cover art for virtually every book is taken from a new item featured on the back cover. The back-cover item in September was a limited-edition Harvest Moon Tea.


"That was available only for the month of September, and now it's completely sold out," he said. "The full [supply] was out within 30 days. [The teas] are so unique that we can't provide vast numbers because tea is like wine. Availability is determined by factors such as the whims of the weather, elevation and the garden itself. Many of our teas are imported from China, Japan and India."


More than 10,000 sales were made of the 4.2-ounce tins priced at $10 that brew 50 to 60 cups, Gold said.


Recipients of the 40-page September catalog, which measured 10 7/8 by 6 inches, included the company's house list, names from general prospect lists and demographically targeted membership and subscription lists.


"We used what we call a bridge mailing," Gold said. "It's a combination of the house list, a fishing list that we get for the lists we buy for prospecting, and we purchase demographic magazine and subscription lists of high-end consumers. The house file is made up of requesters because we advertise the catalog on every product we put out. It's on all labeling, and we get a huge amount of requesters.


"The prospecting file is the most controversial aspect [of our] methodology," he said. "We believe we know who our demographic is, and we would prefer to prospect in that demographic. And that means getting subscription information versus just getting lists of catalog buyers because our product is unique and the brand is a cache. Sometimes blind prospecting is not an option for us."


Gold described the typical customer as "well-educated" with an average annual household income of $65,000 or more.


"You can't be Mercedes-Benz and send your brochure to a trailer park," he said.


The company uses catalog consulting firm O'Keefe Henry Direct Inc., Highland Park, IL, which provides list options over which The Republic of Tea exercises approval. Quad Graphics of Sussex, WI, is the printer. Gold and Ron Rubin, The Republic of Tea's president/CEO, supervise Image Studio, Chicago, in the design, concept, layout and photography for the catalogs.


The Republic of Tea drops eight catalogs each year, roughly one every six weeks, with no activity during the summer.


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