Irish Rose Expects Order Size to Bloom With Personalized Items

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Irish Rose projects a rise in the average order size for its Fall/Spring catalog with the addition of higher-dollar products to this latest edition of the book.


Personalized items that have been added include apparel and glassware containing embroidered family coats of arms. Hundreds of coats of arms are featured in the 32-page book's center spread, and more than 40 products can be personalized with an Irish coat of arms.


"A lot of people are not willing to forgo that real estate, but for us it really draws the customer in," said owner Dan Sexton, whose 12-year-old St. Paul, MN, company has produced catalogs for three years. "We've positioned ourselves with personalization. Much of Irish culture is based on family history. We saw the market to be fairly open in this respect. There isn't a glut of Irish catalogs out there. We knew that the personal items would sell very well.


"Also, we can get them out very quickly because we manufacture 80 percent of the personalized gifts," he said. "Not having to deal with vendors to such a great degree also helps with inventory control. The personalized items account for one-third of our business."


Items in the catalog range in price from $12.95 for coat-of-arms caps and mugs to $1,296 for a hand-painted china set.


Also new to the catalog is a Best of Irish Foods Basket ($89) along with numerous books, jewelry and Royal Tara china.


The catalog's circulation of 800,000 is divided into four drops. The first went out in August and accounted for about 12 percent of the total, while the second mailed Oct. 8 and totaled 234,000. The third drop is set for Monday, and the final drop is scheduled for Nov. 12. The last two drops will amount to 234,000 books apiece.


The fall/spring book has grown throughout its three years. The 1999-2000 edition's circulation was 300,000, and the 2000-01 version reached 450,000. For 1999-2000, the page count was 16, rising to 24 for 2000-01. The number of SKUs in 1999-2000 was about 100, rising to about 150 in 2000-01. The total for the current edition is about 240. In 1999-2000, the book's average order size was $64, which improved to $74 in 2000-01. Sexton projects $84 for the current book.


The overwhelming majority of recipients are prospects, and the typical customer is female, age 40 to 60. The company uses 16 sources to obtain prospects with Irish surnames.


"A lot of companies have their own house files of Irish surnames," he said. "Some are list companies, and some are direct mail catalogs we approach. Victoria's Secret has an inhouse Irish surname file we use.


"Eight [of the companies we obtain names from] are direct mail catalogs, and the rest are list companies. Eddie Bauer is one of the catalog companies we use. We're also doing tests with Scottish lists."


Sexton said his company is in an early growth stage.


"There's a large market out there, and we're not leveling out [in terms of sales]," he said. "A lot of our products are unique."


Production and postage costs also have risen in the three years. The total cost reached 56 cents per piece for the current book, up from 49 cents a year ago and 42 cents two years ago.


Online orders generate about 5 percent of sales, while 25 percent come via the mail. Less than 5 percent are generated through the fax option while the rest are generated via telephone. The company has its own call center. About 60 percent to 70 percent of sales originate from the Eastern United States, with a significant concentration in major metropolitan areas.


Those modeling the clothing in the catalog are split evenly between professional models and Sexton's friends and family. His daughter appears on the cover.


The Irish Rose employs an outside art director and uses Banta, St. Paul, MN, for printing and mailing. Prolitho, Minneapolis, handles pre-press and photography.


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