Halloween's a Treat for Party Cataloger

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While many consumer catalogers are gearing up for the winter holiday season, one online and offline party supply cataloger has ghosts and goblins in mind because it anticipates Halloween will drive its biggest boost in sales.

IParty Corp., which operates a 7-month-old Web site named iParty.com that sells party-related goods, rolled out its first print catalog this week to 100,000 mailboxes. A summer catalog drop is planned for June.

The New York-based e-commerce company sells paper plates and cups, costumes and party favors for children's and adults' parties.

"By far, our biggest opportunity and selling season is Halloween. So as soon as we're done with our summer catalog, we're going to start our Halloween catalog, and our whole Halloween integrated marketing plan," said Gregg Driben, vice president of marketing at iParty.com.

The company plans to roll out its fourth catalog for the winter holiday season, which is the second-largest season for the party supplies industry, Driben said.

While the company hopes to drive traffic to its Web site with its print book, its goal is to acquire new customers, both online and offline.

"There are two universes out there, and we want to capture them both," said Driben. "We want to get catalog buyers who have shopped in the party goods area. We also want to work with our strategic partners to help build our list."

List Advisor Inc., Farmingdale, NY, is the list broker for the cataloger.

The cataloger's primary target is working mothers with young children, said Driben, who would not share how much the company has generated in sales to date.

Quebecor Printing Corp., Hoffman Estates, IL, handles printing and production of the books, which is designed and copy-written inhouse.

Driben said iParty, which does not have its own retail store component, is "actively talking" to some bricks-and-mortar retailers and expects to announce partnerships in the next few weeks.

Earlier this month, iParty signed a deal with SesameStreet.com, under which the content Web site for preschoolers and their parents will create an online "party machine" -- a tool to assist parents in planning their children's parties. Also as part of the agreement, iParty will be the exclusive provider of party supplies to visitors of www.sesamestreet.com, which will provide links to iParty's Web site.

IParty will have access to the mailing lists of Children's Television Workshop and Sesame Street under the terms of the agreement, Driben said.

The party-planning site is launching a business plan later this year for a business-to-business division, but "consumer is the top priority" for the e-tailer, Driben said.

While he named BirthdayExpress.com as iParty's main competitor, he doesn't think it faces much competition.

"The category is wide open and very new, so unlike a lot of other categories in the e-commerce world where there are hundreds of competitors, we're ahead of the game," Driben said.

Meanwhile, Jan Jewell, co-CEO and co-founder of BirthdayExpress.com, disagrees. "There's probably, to my knowledge, 30 to 40 different Web sites trying to sell party supplies."

BirthdayExpress generated $18.6 million in total revenue in 1999, said Jewell, who also stated the 6-year-old company does not break down catalog and e-commerce sales.

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