Co-Ops Make Prospects a Hit for Baseball Cataloger

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After mixed results with prospect lists in the past, cataloger Baseball Express Inc. has hit its stride through the use of cooperative databases.

"We had a good spring last year to leverage, pushing our house file up, and we're being more aggressive with our prospecting," said Dale Fujimoto, vice president of marketing at Baseball Express, San Antonio.

"The introduction of cooperative databases is new to the company as of late last year," he said. "We've found some segments that have worked despite the fact that, for us, prospect lists are difficult to find and traditional list rentals are extremely difficult to make work."

Part of the challenge in finding the right names is that the target audience is largely parents "who have sons who play baseball and who will spend substantial money for quality equipment," he said.

The typical buyer is a homeowner in a household with an average annual income exceeding $75,000. Male buyers are 60 percent to 70 percent of the customer base.

High-ticket items are scattered throughout the book, including bats that sell for up to $300 and gloves priced as high as $200. There's also a pitching machine at $2,660.95 and a batting cage at $3,999.95.

Confident it has a good selection of names, Baseball Express is mailing 5 percent to 10 percent more copies this spring and upped the page count from 80 to 84. About half the 4 million catalogs it mails annually are sent in the spring with summer and fall books accounting for the rest. The percentage of prospects is slightly higher this spring, though more than half of mailings are to the house file.

Three versions of the spring book have gone out, with one more slated to drop by the end of the month.

Increasing circulation seems to be paying off as the $100 average order and 3 percent response rate are about the same as last spring. Item prices are consistent with those last spring.

Baseball Express also shuffled its product lineup. The third and fourth drops of the spring catalog have 10 percent different merchandise from the first two. In addition, each drop used a different cover -- the first time Baseball Express has done that.

"Seeing the same cover gets stale," Fujimoto said. "Basically, all of the last-12-month buyers get all four versions. With the prospects, when it comes to the good lists, we'll reuse them to some degree."

There's also a new Nike line scattered throughout the book that Fujimoto said is doing well.

Finally, Baseball Express changed its approach to pages 2 and 3.

"In the past, pages 2 and 3 would be softer selling, and this year we're more focused on selling on those pages," he said. "We used page 3 for an introductory letter from the company last year."


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