Venus Swimwear to Take Plunge Into Circulation Rise

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Despite two postal rate increases within a year and a possible rate hike for next, Venus Swimwear is moving forward with plans to increase circulation of its swimsuit catalog for 2002.

The jump in circulation is part of the cataloger's plan to continue growing the business, said Daryle V. Scott, president of Venus Swimwear, Jacksonville, FL.

"We expect to continue growth, and in order to do so, we have to increase our circulation," Scott said of the 14-year-old company.

The initiative began earlier this year when the cataloger increased circulation by 30 percent, dropping 22 million books for the year. It also increased the size of the catalog from 80 pages to 100 pages to offer more product selection.

But increasing circulation and page sizes, while using the same glossy paper, also increased the cataloger's production costs. Previous books cost about 58 cents to produce, including postage, compared with the 70 cents, including postage, now. This month's postal rate increase is expected to cost the cataloger an additional 1 percent.

To keep production costs low, Scott said, the company is considering plans to shift to a lower-weight pager and could stop using glossy paper. Venus Swimwear is still analyzing this year's results and will finalize plans for the increase and paper adjustment by August.

Scott also revealed that the catalog's average sales order has increased by 5 percent, to $120, over last year. This could be attributed to the circulation and merchandise selection increases, Scott said.

The sales order increase is decent, considering 2001 has been a less-than-spectacular year for the swimsuit industry because a cool spring in some parts of the country affected sales for some merchants, he said.

"We still performed well, and we will beat last year's numbers both in sales and net profits," Scott said, declining comment on what those figures are.

The catalog is broken into two sections - swimsuit and accessories, and sportswear. Swimsuit, which takes 3-quarters of the book, has varying color themes. For example, Stars & Stripes features bikini clad models wearing suits reminiscent of the Fourth of July holiday. Each bathing suit theme also features coordinating accessories that include earrings, headbands, scrunchies, and in some t-shirts.

Each page has between one and six items. Prices range from $6 for headbands to $72 for a one-piece bathing suit.

Venus Swimwear has a database of more than 1 million names and does rent names from numerous lists. Scott declined to name the company those lists come from.

"We do media ads in Cosmopolitan and Seventeen magazines. They are helpful, but it's a little bit more difficult to measure this [particular] advertising accurately," Scott said. "We do it, for now, for name recognition. Those display ads don't bring enough income to create a profit. We've run them at a loss and look at it as a way to increase [brand] awareness."

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