Brigade Quartermaster Runs Lean With Holiday Catalog

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A reduction in SKUs, page count and books produced, combined with a tighter mailing schedule, characterized changes in Brigade Quartermasters' catalog marketing strategy in the period leading to the holidays.

Unlike in 2000 when the company mailed three holiday books from August to December, the 2001 holiday mailing consisted of the winter 2001/2002 catalog, which went out in three drops in November and December. The number of holiday books mailed slid from 600,000 in 2000 to 400,000 for 2001.

"August and September are slow months for us, and we wanted to concentrate on November and December, which is the best period of the year," said Wendy Abney, director of marketing at Brigade Quartermasters Ltd., Kennesaw, GA.

Brigade Quartermasters also cut SKUs by 20 percent and reduced the page count from 116 for the 2000 holiday catalogs to 80 for the winter 2001/2002 book.

"We had been testing a lot of product lines," Abney said. "We reduced the page count and the SKUs because we wanted to sharpen our product focus. We had some products that didn't fit into the mix."

Despite the changes, the company kept its mailing split of 60 percent house file names and the rest prospects. Prospecting involved the use of co-op databases from Abacus as well as Experian's Z-24. Catalog files and magazine lists also were used.

The target demographic is 75 percent to 85 percent male and ages 25-54, with a high percentage ages 40-54.

"About 10 percent of what we mail is international, primarily going to Japan and Canada," she said. "Our overall business is made up of wholesale export and consumer business. We also send our books to U.S. military bases where they are given to military personnel. They also go to U.S. embassies. We have a lot of military and ex-military personnel in our house file."

Abney said the book had produced a 3.5 percent response rate through the end of December and that she anticipates a 5 percent response rate when final catalog totals are calculated in February. The average order size is $75, less than the $85 anticipated. The holiday 2000 books produced a 5.5 percent response rate and average order size of $82.

"Considering the state of the economy, we're pleased with what we're seeing at this point," she said.

Fifty-three percent of catalog sales come through the company's call center in Kennesaw while the online option at and produces 28 percent. Faxed orders (5 percent) and mailed forms (14 percent) account for the rest.

"Last year mailed-in order forms were a higher percentage of sales than the Web, but every year our success on the Web has increased dramatically," she said. "There's a higher average order amount on the Web, which is around $90."


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