Harry & David Profits From Reminder Service

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Fruit and gourmet foods cataloger Harry & David has proved that one of the easiest ways to keep customers loyal is to remind them what product they bought, when they bought it and to whom they sent it.


Harry & David's customer recipient list mailing generates a response rate of more than 50 percent for the cataloger.


The package contains a current catalog and a completed order form. Included on the order form are the name and address of the friend or relative the customer previously mailed to, as well as the item purchased and the card's message. A customer can reorder the same gift by checking a box or can specify any changes.


"One of the chores in gift buying is gathering all that information and having it in one place," said Nancy Tait, chief marketing officer at Harry & David's parent company, Bear Creek Corp., Medford, OR. "We realized this service ... [so] they could easily reorder." She added that more than 50 percent of Harry & David orders are gift orders.


Harry & David sends the recipient list mailing to its customers for three years, whether or not they have made a repeat purchase.


Bear Creek has two other titles: apparel, accessories and gifts catalog Northwest Express and Jackson & Perkins' rose and garden-related products catalog. The customer recipient list program is offered across the 65-year-old cataloger's titles.


The customer's recipient list also is available online at Harry & David's Web site, harryanddavid.com, but it does not send a customer recipient list via e-mail. The merchant does e-mail its customers to inform them that the list is available online and to notify them about new products.


As part of its program, Bear Creek also offers Harry & David customers a 20 percent discount if they purchase an additional item for themselves.


At least one industry expert thinks that the reason more catalogers don't offer reminder services is that they're not equipped to offer this type of customer service.


"One reason they don't do it is because they're not set up to do it. Most companies are set up for acquisition. They're not set up to be proactive and go out [to their customers] and say, 'Here's who you mailed to last year.' If you're set up to handle it, it can be very profitable," said Arthur Middleton Hughes, vice president for strategic planning, M/S Database Marketing LLC, Los Angeles.


"It requires a whole different operation and a different measurement. It has to be somebody who's devoted to customer service," Hughes said, adding that many catalogers are more concerned with "getting out the next book."


1-800-Flowers.com, Westbury, NY, also offers a similar type of service via e-mail for registered online users.


"With that reminder typically comes a link so that [registered users] can easily come to our site and do their shopping," said Joseph Hage, director of relationship marketing at 1-800-Flowers.com. Hage declined to share response rates for the company's e-mail reminder service.


The online florist also mails a print book but doesn't offer a reminder service offline.


"Not only would a comparable [offline] one be awfully difficult to administer, time-consuming and costly, but it's no mistake that we are making a concerted effort to encourage people to place their ordering online," Hage said, adding that "it enables us to have a better conversation with them." According to Hage, 1-800-Flowers.com has more than 500,000 registered users online.


Harry & David's customer file holds 7.5 million names. Across the three titles, Bear Creek has 15 million names.


Bear Creek does most of its prospecting during the winter holidays, sending about half of the mailing to prospects. The cataloger likely will mail a Harry & David catalog to approximately 40 million customers and prospects this holiday season, Tait said.


American List Counsel, Princeton, NJ, is the list broker for the cataloger. The books are designed and produced inhouse. R.R. Donnelley & Sons, which prints Harry & David's Christmas book, is the company's primary printer.


Harry & David mails a catalog to its best customers every four weeks. The company usually mails to business customers only during the winter holiday season.
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