Dutch Mill Scraps Catalog for Web

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Home furnishings manufacturer Dutch Mill LLC has discontinued its business-to-business catalog in favor of the Internet, saying that print costs did not justify the modest run of 500 copies per drop.


Through mydutchmill.com, which launched last month, Dutch Mill also began selling directly to consumers for the first time. The company hopes eventually to display its 3,000 stock keeping units on the site.


"To update our product on a quarterly basis for the number of consumers or wholesalers that we have purchasing our product was not cost-effective to do in print," said Vicki Keyser, Duluth, GA-based vice president of sales and marketing at Dutch Mill, Luling, LA. She would not disclose the cost of the catalog operation.


The 3-year-old manufacturer of high-end decorative pillows, bedding and furniture accents had dropped an annual catalog of 76 pages and a quarterly book of eight to 16 pages. The catalog targeted store buyers and designers as well as floor staff to use with customers.


Catalogs were distributed via mail and independent sales representatives, who accounted for 20 percent of company sales. Private-label manufacture for retailers such as Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale's By Mail and Flack Interiors account for 35 percent of sales. Catalog sales, in an overlap with sales reps, account for 45 percent.


Founded by Keyser, her sister Michelle Dugas and former Ralph Lauren home products designer Rhonda Boyter, Dutch Mill outsources manufacturing to a factory in North Carolina.


With items priced from $80 to thousands of dollars, Dutch Mill boasts 20 collections in traditional and contemporary styles.


The Web site will display the company's products in separate sections for consumers and retailers. Though a work in progress, the consumer section is up. Retailers will have access to their section later this month, albeit via password.


"With our Web site, we have actually put the retail pricing on the Internet," Keyser said.


"Our wholesalers will have separate access ... that will bring up their wholesale prices," she said. "But we've protected them with their consumers by being able to show them what kind of products we have, and then they can obtain them at the wholesale price and independently price them for their customers."


Dutch Mill ensured that prices on the site's consumer section left retailers plenty of leeway to set their own prices, Keyser said.


"We have protected their markup in our retail pricing ... and given them the independence to undercut," Keyser said.


Dutch Mill has not abandoned mailings. It dropped 2,000 mailers to consumers July 18, and another 500 pieces to its retail channel a few days later. Plans call for another 5,000 mailers to consumers within a month. The consumers' names were rented from lists that showed a pattern of high-end purchases in relation to new homes and new home products.


Concurrent with the mail effort, Dutch Mill contacted retailers by telephone. Sales reps chipped in with personal visits.


The new site will gain support from these sales reps, as well as telephone calls, direct mail and trade show attendance. Dutch Mill executives attend home furnishings conferences in Atlanta, Denver, Dallas, Seattle and High Point, NC.


"We have followed the natural trail of markets for our industry," Keyser said.


Mydutchmill.com is crucial for the success of Dutch Mill's new Fine Art Pillow line aimed at consumers. The pillow line is a signed and numbered limited edition. The first product in this line is a pillow assembled with deep teal silk charmeuse, Hungarian white goose down liner, Austrian crystal buttons, hand embroidery with threads in jewel tones and rounded off with 100 carats of diamonds, emeralds, amethysts, rubies and sapphires. It costs $100,000.


"We developed one prototype, and from that we have three commitments," Keyser said. "We've decided to make it a limited edition of 10."


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