Guppy 22 Plans Generation Y Catalog

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With its Internet presence, grass-roots marketing force and twentysomething management team, Guppy 22 hopes to make a splash when it enters the hot and still uncrowded Generation Y catalog arena this fall.


For the past year, Guppy 22, Newton, MA, has been selling alternative clothing and accessories to people ages 10 to 24 on a Web site at www.guppy22.com.


In a unique twist on interactive marketing, the Web site not only features surveys, directories of the country's best skiing and skateboarding spots and daily jokes, quotes and trivia facts, it also encourages customers to become part of the company's marketing team.


Customers interested in becoming representatives must send personal information to the company via e-mail. If selected, they can receive clothing discounts and a percentage of the profits from purchases made by customers they referred to the company in exchange for handing out fliers and stickers.


Although company president and CEO Daniel Borer would not reveal sales figures, there are more than 300 marketing representatives spreading the word around the country, and the initial catalog drop of 500,000 will be sent entirely to names from Guppy 22's house file, he said.


The company is in tune with its market because it is the market, said Borer, 22, who decided not to complete his bachelor's degree program at Brandeis University when Guppy 22 got off the ground. Borer started the company with three friends and $170,000 of his own and family members' savings after noticing that the types of clothes he liked were not readily available and often were overpriced.


"We understand the market because we're so close to it," Borer said. "The oldest person in the company is 26."


The upper age cap may change because the company is in negotiations to hire an experienced catalog executive to set up the catalog, for which the company already has received tens of thousands of requests.


Although requests from interested customers have encouraged Guppy 22 to move forward in creating a catalog, it was not the driving force. The Web site was designed with a dual purpose: Besides selling clothes, jewelry and cosmetics, it conducts market research on its customer base through surveys that ask customers what their favorite brands are, how much they spend on clothes and what color they would choose if they were to dye their hair.


"We've always wanted to do a catalog. The catalog market for this age group is an underserved market and a hot market where there's a lot of room for growth," Borer said. "There are only a few other catalogs targeting this group, and they're bringing in three times the response rate of regular apparel catalogs."


Although Generation Y catalogers such as Delia's and Zoe have drawn a great deal of attention, Borer said Alloy is the only catalog for the age group that targets both boys and girls as Guppy 22 does.


Though Guppy 22 has been able to sell apparel to young people over the Internet, he said there are several reasons why the Internet cannot fully serve this group.


"A lot of teens don't have access to the Internet, or their parents, who are a major influence on their purchasing, don't feel comfortable having their credit card number used on the Internet," he said.


Although much of the details of structuring the catalog will be left to the future catalog director, the company has definite plans to keep the fresh, young character of the Web site.


"We definitely will have content," Borer said. "It may not be exactly like the Web, but it will be content relevant to the market."


In addition to its unique style of content, Borer said, Guppy 22 hopes to become known as a company that puts an emphasis on customer service. To boost its standards, he wants the new catalog director to help set up an in-house call center.


"At a lot of the outsourced phone centers people answer the phone for so many different catalogs. We want to make sure that people answering the phone are familiar with our merchandise," Borer said.


The company also is negotiating to receive additional financing for the catalog.
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