Canada Post Plans Catalog of Catalogs

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With the Canadian dollar at a 30-year high against the U.S. dollar, the time is right to start a full-fledged shopping catalog north of the border showcasing American brands, according to Canada Post.

For the past several years, Canada Post has sent a mailer around the holiday season featuring several brands per page. Recipients could respond to Canada Post and obtain a copy of the specified catalog. But in November, Canada Post debuts The Look Book, a catalog of catalogs offering two pages of products for each of the 12 participating U.S. and Canadian retailers.

"We're looking to drive more direct-to-purchase transactions as opposed to the two-step process [previously required to make a purchase]," said Patrick Bartlett, general manager of catalog divisions of Canada Post, Ottawa.

The 12 retailers in the November book include Tiger Direct, SmartHome, Eddie Bauer, Brookstone and Cabela's. Canada Post will handle the orders and fulfillment for the majority of the participants except for a few Canadian retailers and one or two U.S. retailers that are not signed up for Canada Post's fulfillment services.

"The Canadian economy is very strong right now," Mr. Bartlett said, adding that many U.S. retailers already doing business in Canada have experienced growth as high as 250 percent for the first half of this year compared with last year.

And in the past two quarters, more than 10 new retailers have partnered with Canada Post to distribute catalogs or leverage the post's Borderfree service to fulfill Canadian orders.

Still, many product categories have minimal selection online or through catalogs in Canada, creating pent-up demand. Mr. Bartlett predicts strong sales and heavy volume this holiday season for retailers in such underserved categories as clothing and accessories, health and beauty, toys and video games and home and garden items.

Another factor spurred the introduction of a catalog with a consistent look and format, Mr. Bartlett said. Merchants have been telling Canada Post that they need help with prospecting and increasing their business in Canada. With this in mind, Canada Post introduced a segmentation system, the Snapshot Segmentation System, last year and updated it this year with new data sources.

As a result, Canada Post now "feels comfortable in being able to offer a circulation plan that will be relevant for retailers and will be profitable," Mr. Bartlett said.

The November catalog will mail to 500,000 homes. The list will be "much more targeted" than Canada Post's previous holiday mailings, he said.

"Our mailings in the past were more of a saturation mailing," Mr. Bartlett said. "This year, we've driven down to a specific name that has shown an interest in direct mail and catalogs before."

This year's catalog differs from previous holiday mailings in other ways. In the past, the format was usually 6 by 9 inches. This year's 28-page book will measure 8 1/2 by 11 inches, giving it a more substantial feel and more staying power in people's homes, he said.

"Canadians still hold onto catalogs," he said. "We want to take advantage of that."

Also, an e-mail that will be structured as an online catalog will go to 200,000 names.

Based on the results of the holiday mailing, Canada Post will continue to offer The Look Book and expects to do a spring and fall edition next year.

"Eventually, we'll look at adding different titles and where we can expand it," Mr. Bartlett said.

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