Fat Hat Deals New Catalog to Its Customers

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The Fat Hat Factory Etc., Quechee, VT, recently dropped 6,000 copies of its newest catalog. But unlike its previous booklets filled with colorful pages of clothing and hats, the latest version resembles a deck of playing cards.


Joan Ecker, designer and owner of the catalog and retail shop, decided to break away from the traditional catalog.


"We're not sending these out to random people. We [were] very selective," she said. "We're not using any [outside] lists. The names are from our database of customers. The whole point is to keep this [campaign] very personal, so they only went to customers who know us and who are always looking forward [to] something silly from us."


Each deck cost $4.35 to make and 65 cents to mail. The company's catalogs target professional women between ages 35 and 80 with annual incomes between $50,000 and $100,000. The average order placed through previous catalogs has been between $150 and $300. David B. Tibbetts, co-owner of Applied Catalog Solutions, Enfield, NH, designed the catalog for Fat Hat.


The cards measure 4 inches by 6 inches and are packaged in a black-and-white cardboard box emblazoned with the company's logo. The chatter is breezy and personal, as noted on the 3 of Clubs: "A slightly tailed shirt (you know us, we're never really tailored), with five buttons, long sleeves and side vents for easy comfort." Or on the 9 of Hearts: "... If you have narrow hips, this slim styled skirt looks great. My hips are 37 inches (now everyone will know) and I wear a medium. Please keep that in mind when you order. (The rest of your body could be small, but if your hips are wide, this skirt is not the right choice.)"


Fat Hat has about 11,000 customers in its database, but only sends catalogs to those who've purchased within the last year.


This is the only catalog mailing this year, Ecker said. Usually Fat Hat drops two catalogs per year, however, production for the latest publication began late and the company decided only to release one.


Catalog recipients started placing orders this week, but Ecker was unable to provide totals regarding purchases.


Ecker admits that it's an expensive campaign and that the company could take a loss. She said the idea was to give her loyal customers a small token of the company's appreciation. Fat Hat would need a return rate of $100,000 for the campaign to be successful.


Bill Dean, president of marketing research firm W.A. Dean & Associates, San Francisco, said the concept isn't unique. Similar formats have been used by other marketers.


"It's rarely done because the expense is fairly high versus the return," he said. "I suspect what they are trying to do is cut through the mailbox clutter. If they are sending it to their own customer base, they are talking to people who have some familiarity with the company. One of the interesting things to watch for is if the company over the next six months sees an [increase] in retail sales. This concept could also be successful for wholesale. A company needs something to stand out, and this would make them stand out."


Fat Hat also sells its items wholesale to more than 300 stores nationwide.


The deck of 54 cards -- which includes two order forms -- features four lines of clothing and hats placed in different suits. For example, travel clothing can be found in clubs while more casual clothing is in hearts.


Besides showcasing the various clothing and hats, the ace and face cards are photos of Ecker, her two daughters, Max -- the family dog -- and the Quechee shop. The cards give brief descriptions of each and the history of the family business. Ecker said she wanted those details to make the cards more personal.


"We've gotten back a lot of positive responses from this, but we probably won't be doing a deck of cards next year," Ecker said. "This was a one-shot deal."
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