Jewelry Cataloger Seeks More Gems From House File

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A slight shift mailing more catalogs to its house file helped raise the December response rate for jewelry cataloger Heavenly Treasures.


"In December we mailed about 25 percent of our catalogs to our house file and 75 percent went to prospects," said Michael Ades, a vice president at Heavenly Treasures, Allenhurst, NJ. "We wanted to get greater use out of our current customer file and concentrate on [them as] a way to generate sales from our very loyal customers."


Only 18 percent of the company's catalogs went to its house file in December 2001.


The number of books dropped year over year stayed virtually constant at what Ades described as "in the low millions." Page count remained 48.


"We didn't go further with the December circulation because of the economy," he said. "In previous years we were going up in circulation. This is the first year in awhile in which we hadn't."


The result was a response rate around 0.75 percent, which Ades called "a little better than what was expected." Response for December 2001 was 0.63 percent.


The average order matched the previous December, around $320. The average price of items in the book fell to $200 from the December 2001 average of $250. An increase in average units per order compensated for the lower prices.


"We also have higher margins on our lower-priced merchandise," he said. "The decision to include more lower-priced merchandise was economy-driven, and we were also looking for a greater response."


About 80 percent of buyers are females in households where the average income is $85,000.


"With the lists we use, I'm definitely trying to get middle- to upper-income households with a significant past purchase history and a high average order history where they order from apparel and gift marketers," he said.


The catalog contains about 600 SKUs, roughly the same as in December 2001, though Ades said at least 50 percent of the merchandise was changed.


There were three drops with circulation split evenly. Two were identical except for the front and back covers. A third version had 15 to 20 pages taken from the other two with changes in the merchandise assortment.


The two versions with slightly different covers had in-home dates of Dec. 1 and Dec. 8. Both promoted an "extended holiday return policy" across the bottom of the front cover. The third version had "receive free shipping when ordering ... prior to Feb. 1 2003" across the bottom. It was in-home Dec. 15.


"The third one was planned to get last-minute holiday purchases as we were looking for pre-holiday and post-holiday sales on that one," Ades said. "It was pretty evenly done across the board in terms of response rate, but the second [mailing had] the worst response rate."


The December 2002 effort generated an improvement in the performance of HeavenlyTreasures.com. Faxed and mailed orders produced 5 percent to 8 percent of sales while phoned orders accounted for 72 percent to 75 percent. The Web site generated 20 percent of the total compared with 13 percent in the year-ago catalog effort.


"It's a better site now with more functionality," Ades said. "It's easier to order on the site than it was a year ago, and it also has improved graphics."


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