Fewer Items, Pages in Sears Holiday Book

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Fewer items, a reduced page count and a smaller size are among the changes in the Sears Holiday 2001 Wish Book compared with last year's version.

"There is an expense savings for doing that, but that was not the primary driver," said Lincoln Rodman, director of catalogs for Sears, Roebuck and Co., Hoffman Estates, IL. "We have a significantly more edited selection this year. We recognized that there are a number of time-poor customers, and we've tried to simplify the shopping experience. We really went out to make this an infinitely more shoppable catalog. This year's seems easier to read."

The 192 pages this year compares with 288 last year. The catalog measures 7 9/16 inches by 10 inches, compared with 8 1/16 by 10 3/8 inches last year. The book has 1,300 items, down from more than 2,000 last year.

Last year's cover included a save-$5-on-your-first-order offer in the upper left corner. That has been replaced in 2001 with an offer of no payments until February 2002 "on your purchase of $100 or more from this catalog when you use your Sears card."

"The offers are changed based on the results from the previous year," Rodman said. "We have one of the largest customer databases in the industry. Our credit business has nearly 40 million active cardholders."

Sears' total catalog circulation is more than 140 million over 13 titles. Rodman called the Wish Book, which first appeared in 1933, "a very important piece of that."

This year's Wish Book has a color-coded index on the left side of page 2 that includes Sensational Gifts, More Gifts, Jewelry, Sporting Goods, Electronics, Video Games, Sensational Toys, Kid's Room, Little Ones, Creativity, Imagination, Music, Action and Outdoor. The corresponding colors appear at the bottom of pages throughout the book.

A great deal of manufacturer-supplied photography was used in previous years, but Sears provided a larger proportion of the photography this year, Rodman said.

"When you look at a book that is 200 pages and a lot of [it is] manufacturer-supplied photography, you get a lot of inconsistent backgrounds, and they can be using the shots for a variety of reasons," he said. "We needed to create cadence and a pace that is consistent throughout the book. We use manufacturer photography but to a lesser extent."

The typical customer target for the book is women ages 25-40 and households with children.

"Over half of our book is devoted to items directed toward children," Rodman said.

"I think the game cube and the video game category are extremely hot for the video gamers, and it is new," he said. "We have a category in preschool called Bob the Builder and leather outerwear with new styles."

Rodman also said online business tripled last year compared with 1999. The Wish Book has a complementary Web site -- www.wishbook.com - noted at the bottom of every odd-numbered page.

"We've had a very solid year in our catalog business," he said. "The economy is always a concern, but we expect a continuing solid year in general."


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