Eastbay Gears Catalog for Spring

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Designing a compact catalog with thousands of product images and descriptions for a mainly teenage audience has always been a challenge for Eastbay Inc. So, of course, the 25-year-old sports gear marketer is continually looking to improve the layout.


The company hopes its latest tweaks catch the eye of junior high and high school athletes nationwide with last week's 5.5 million drop of its spring book. The catalog went mostly to residential addresses, though a small percentage of coaches and athletic directors also received it.


Compared with last year, product images are featured more notably and spaced nearer the prices. The product layout order of "picture first, price second and copy third" makes for a cleaner overall design and tends to appeal to the core audience, said Eric Grunewald, director of marketing and creative services at Eastbay, Wausau, WI.


"The kids usually know what they are looking for, so we want the product picture to grab their attention," he said. "We are really trying to let the product picture tell the story while the bullet-point copy is explaining the technical data."


Those bullet points replaced the buttons or the "pillbox" format that Eastbay used last year in detailing product information (e.g., what types of support straps and insoles a baseball shoe can have). In addition, more pictures of professional athletes, such as basketball players LeBron James and Allen Iverson, appear throughout the book. In the current issue, those two players have a page and a half each dedicated to their merchandise collections.


"We are really trying to bring a more human element to the pages," Grunewald said. "We want to bring more of a sense of lifestyle imagery."


Moving forward, 75 percent of recipients will be past customers while the rest will be prospects. Multiple prospect lists were tested for the campaign, which was put together with marketing services firm Rubin Response Management Services, Schaumburg, IL.


The red-and-orange-hued book totals 112 pages, and it was printed on 32-pound coated paper. An e-mail campaign to 600,000 past Internet customers went out last week to drive interest for the mailing.


"It's going to be a simple messaging type of e-mail letting them know that the Eastbay catalog will be in their mail," Grunewald said.


Since being acquired in 1997, Eastbay has been part of Footlocker Inc., New York, which includes the Footlocker, Kids Footlocker, Lady Footlocker, Footlocker Europe, Champs Sports and FootAction USA brands. While the others focus on shoes, Eastbay offers a larger product scope for athletes in basketball, baseball, football and track.


Through the catalog and online, Eastbay displays thousands of items such as jerseys, shorts, performance underwear, sporting equipment and other gear. The company also offers everyday merchandise like pajamas, sunglasses and watches, not to mention hip casual wear for school or social events. Several pages feature designer polo shirts, jeans, hoodies and T-shirts manufactured by Sean John, Ecko Unlimited, Azzure, Lacoste, G-Unit and Phat Farm with prices ranging from $28 to $98.


"We've come to believe that our customers enjoy the high SKU density and wide variety of products, or else we wouldn't approach the catalog this way," Grunewald said.


Meanwhile, Eastbay elevated its priority of synching catalog marketing with the Web site. For instance, on the front page of www.eastbay.com, a large box showcases some of the current catalog's merchandise. And in the catalog's track section, customers are told to use the keywords "fast feet" in the search bar at Eastbay.com to buy replacement spikes.


"We are making our branding message more consistent across all channels," Grunewald said.


In the coming months, the company will look to segment its purely Web customers from its "catalog-Internet" and "catalog-catalog" buyers to reduce printing and mailing costs. Currently, all Internet shoppers get a copy of the paper catalog, even if they have shown no interest in using it.


"One of the key [questions] is, do the Internet-only customers need a catalog?" said Doug Huss, director of circulation at Eastbay. "Or can we send them something different like a postcard or some other means of getting their response? It's going to be a big challenge for us in '06."


Christopher Heine covers CRM, analytics and production and printing for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters


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