Flooring Cataloger Hopes Bigger Format Gets Attention

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The most obvious aspect of the Flor catalog is that it looks nothing like a catalog. The direct marketer of modular flooring instead is counting on the look and feel of a broadsheet newspaper to drive consumer sales via its fall catalog.


"Most people think it looks different, and we were trying to get people's attention," said Chip DeGrace, vice president of marketing at InterfaceFlor, Chicago. "We traded off some costs for awareness.


"This is not 'mass consumer' right now. You've got to be hip to new things. This is about a really cool material. If you're a renter, it's something you can create and move with you. There's tons of loft and townhouse development, and it does strike a cord with people trying to reinvent they way they live."


The company, which has sold to the U.S. commercial market for 30 years, entered the consumer market in March with the catalog's launch. InterfaceFlor has sold to consumers in Europe for 30 years and commercially in Europe for 40.


The fall catalog is the second produced, and a holiday book is in the works. It contains 32 pages and measures 19 by 11 5/8 inches.


The typical customer targeted for this effort is urban, ages 30-55. Circulation for the fall stayed at just under 100,000. About 40 percent of recipients were design industry professionals while the rest were "design-aware" consumers.


Consumer names were obtained from the lists of catalogers such as West Elm and Smith & Noble, along with magazines such as Metropolis and Architectural Digest. Design professionals targeted include interior, graphic and industrial designers as well as architects, with names obtained from professional organizations.


"Designers are also buying for their clients," DeGrace said. "Every page isn't crammed full of merchandise.


"We've done a lot of viral campaigns in the U.S., and the success is proven by the amount of coverage we've gotten in print," he said. "We've been on MTV's 'Crib Crashers' program in which they renovate a person's home, as well as in The New York Times and U.S. News and World Report.


"Since this was the first year of building this product grouping, some of the shots were lifestyle shots. They would have more of an impact than if we used a conventional format. For the most part, there are no people in these rooms, but it looks like someone was just there. This is aspirational without being over people's heads."


For example, a photo of a desk shows a laptop computer turned on while another shows a room with an iron, ironing board and shirt hanging off the board -- as if someone had just left the room.


Products do not appear until page 6. Page 3 includes a "Welcome" and explains the differences between Rug in a Box and Room in a Box segments. Pages 4-5 include the "Top 5 Reasons to Love Flor." Page 27 includes a worksheet, fast facts about installation and a room calculator that lets the consumer determine the number of squares needed for a specific room.


The August drop was a U.S. Postal Service bulk mailing at less than 35 cents per piece. However, requesters receive the piece via Airborne Express or USPS First Class at a cost of 65 to 75 cents. Total per-piece cost, including postage, printing and production, exceeded $1.


DeGrace said the company would have been "thrilled with [a] 2 to 4 percent" response rate for the spring catalog, and that it exceeded those expectations. He would not offer a specific rate, however.


"For the fall, our projection was to do better since a lot of the audience had seen it before," he said. "It will do much better than the first one. Fall is a good flooring time of the year."


The average order in the spring was $200 to $500, and the projection for the fall is the same.


Mailed with the catalog was an insert that includes a tear-away business reply card that asks recipients to fill out and return an 11-question survey.


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