Brownie Marketer Hopes to Cash in on Valentine's Day

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Fairytale Brownies Inc. mailed its first-ever Valentine's Day catalog earlier this month hoping that its customers will send a "fairy tale dozen" -- a gift box stocked with one of each kind of brownie in the company's assortment -- instead of the traditional dozen roses to their significant others.

Valentine's Day is the second most important holiday for the brownie marketer after the Christmas and Hanukkah holiday season. Nine percent of its annual sales are generated from Valentine's Day orders.

Fairytale, Chandler, AZ, also plans to produce catalogs this year for Easter, Mother's Day and Father's Day. The company mailed postcards for these holidays in previous years.

"Last year, with the Valentine's Day postcard, all we did was mail a postcard to our customers and all they had was one holiday choice, and we were able to grow 50 percent each of those holidays," said president and co-owner Eileen Spitalny, who founded Fairytale Brownies with childhood friend David Kravitz. "We're still looking for the same sort of growth. Hopefully we'll meet or exceed our goal."

Spitalny and Kravitz began baking brownies, using Kravitz's mother's recipe, and selling them about eight years ago. They have been mailing a full-scale catalog for about five years during the Christmas and Hanukkah season.

Spitalny said the company hopes to generate $4 million in sales this year, compared with $2.3 million in sales last year.

Last year, the company mailed 200,000 catalogs during the holiday season, at least double the number sent during the previous year.

"Over the [winter] holidays, we do over half our annual sales," Spitalny said. "This past December we did 85 percent more business than December 1999."

Fairytale also hopes to generate additional revenue this year by renting its lists.

"We did some trading of lists over the holidays," Spitalny said. "We now have a list of companies [interested in renting our lists]. I'm waiting right now to see those companies."

Fairytale mailed 60,000 of the 16-page, full-sized Valentine's Day catalogs, 83 percent of which were mailed to its house file, which contains 235,000 names and addresses. Direct Media, Greenwich, CT, has been handling list brokerage for Fairytale, but Spitalny said the company will most likely use names from Abacus' co-op database for its spring mailings.

The average order size is $40. Roughly 30 percent of orders are placed online at Fairytale's 5-year-old Web site, while the rest of the orders are generated via its print catalog.

Order fulfillment and catalog design, as well as brownie baking, take place at the Chandler facility where Fairytale also operates a retail store. Brownies are also sold at eight other retail stores in Phoenix, Chandler and Scottsdale, AZ.

The company employs a staff of approximately 20 and adds about 30 seasonal employees during the winter holidays. In an effort to bulk up its staff during this past holiday season, the company sent 15,000 postcards to local residents with a mini job application and an offer for a free brownie, rather than using a temp agency as it had done in prior years.

"We got a bunch of employees that way, which is a lot better than going through the temp service -- [which is] much more expensive," Spitalny said. "We're definitely going to [send postcards] again this summer."

The cataloger will also send Valentine's Day e-mails in early February to its 17,000-address database. A second e-mail will be sent to Arizona residents in Fairytale's customer file, reminding them to visit one of the stores where the brownies are sold.

Arandell Corp., Menomonee, WI, handles printing for Fairytale Brownies' books.

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