Mailer Is Chef Central's Recipe for Holiday Sales

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Chef Central, a Paramus, NJ, culinary superstore that is more SoHo than Williams-Sonoma, is conducting a direct mail campaign supported by radio to make it top-of-mind in its geographical area.


The retailer dropped mailers Nov. 6 to 70,000 customers and prospects, inviting them to shop in the store with a one-item, 20 percent-off coupon enclosed. Another mailing of the same size to a similar audience goes out Dec. 3.


"This is a precursor to doing the whole thing monthly, having communication constantly with the customer," said John Perls, partner and creative director of Hammerhead Advertising, the Hoboken, NJ, agency on the account.


The mailers laud the 15,000-square-foot Chef Central, a store with exposed rafters, cement floors, rice-paper-covered lighting fixtures and Metro baker's racks. On the shelves are kitchen and cooking accessories from pots and pans to gourmet gadgets.


The store targets households in surrounding Bergen County, a New York City suburb with many affluent communities. Hammerhead examined Chef Central's customer base to buy lists with the same demographics, mostly women in households earning more than $50,000 a year.


The four-panel mailers open to 11 by 21 inches and fold to 11 by 5 inches. Titled "The Frontburner" after a scrapped store newsletter of that name, the November mailer shows an apple pie next to a rolling pin. The mailer for next month features shots of gingerbread cookies on a cooling rack juxtaposed with a cookie cutter.


Inside, the tone is irreverent, with a tinge of smart-alecky. The November mailer opens with: "A turkey is a large North American bird with brownish plumage, a short neck and a wattle. People who don't shop at Chef Central are also turkeys." A visual of a $14.99 covered turkey bowl follows.


The piece eyes Thanksgiving business, listing items such as a turkey fryer and burner set, roasting pans, Michael Graves electric tea kettle, covered pie keepers, Viking professional cutlery and Cuisinart products.


Interspersed with those images are tidbits such as: "In one year, North Carolina produces over 555 million pounds of sweet potatoes. Fortunately Chef Central has the perfect amount of pie plates to bake them in."


The November and December mailers also have a calendar listing cooking classes, product demonstrations and other events at the store. Famous chefs will grace the occasions. Recipients are encouraged to register their children for cooking classes on the premises as well as the mailing list. Chef Central's mailing list stands near 18,000, who are being contacted in this current direct effort.


The December mailing has a Christmas theme. "Many people think of Santa, stockings and reindeer when they think of Christmas," it opens. "Surveys show that a growing number of people also think of Chef Central." A chef figure with removable serving tray features alongside.


The mailer lists an electric wine cellar, a set of cordial glasses, cordless electric cookie gun and decorator, lever corkscrew, hand-painted holiday pottery and an automatic espresso machine to reflect the SKUs at Chef Central.


And just in case people did not know, "Mistletoe has been known to inspire a kiss," a blurb reads. "Funny, the cordial glasses below have been known to do the same thing."


The 20 percent-off discount on any single item is extended to the December mailer. In a slight departure from the earlier mailing, a small portion will go to consumers with household incomes of $30,000.


"Everybody likes to eat, and we'd like to broaden the market that's closest to the store," Perls said. "We thought that this made the most sense."


About 17 New York radio spots will support. Chef Central previously relied on newsletters to customers. But that did not sell enough or yield satisfactory foot traffic.


"They were regular, but they were not selling product or merchandise," he said. "It was our intention to sell the entire store, and that's what we feel this piece does. The tone of this whole thing is creating a voice for the store, which really hasn't been there before."


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