Cataloger Finds Using Short Lists a Tall Order

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If you think short men have a difficult time when shopping for quality clothing, try being a cataloger that caters to this niche market.

Short Sizes, Cleveland, an apparel catalog serving men who are shorter than 5 feet 8 inches, has dropped 110,000 copies of its Fall and Winter 2000 catalog. The number has remained constant for the cataloger, which drops two catalogs per year, since the Fall and Winter 1999 book was produced. It dropped 95,000 catalogs in the spring of 1999.

Company president Bob Stern said that while he has been successful in creating a database of customers, it's very difficult to find outside lists that target short men. Few list companies have names of men interested in the specialty apparel because there isn't much of a demand for the category, he said.

The cataloger -- which has its only retail outlet in Cleveland -- has built its database through advertising in major newspapers such as The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times. Five years ago Stern took the catalog online and partnered with Yahoo Shopping to attract more visitors. The e-commerce site now accounts for 12 percent to 14 percent of his mail-order business, Stern said.

The catalog targets men age 40 and older who are well-educated and who earn an annual income of $50,000 or more. The average order is about $100.

Stern did not reveal specifics regarding the projected conversion rate or anticipated sales figures based on the recent drop.

"We're doing more with the Web site ... right now we're looking at trying out some different things to attract more customers," Stern said.

Bill Dean, president of W.A. Dean & Associates, San Francisco, a catalog consulting company, said the direct marketers in the specialty field always will have to find other ways of gathering names because the database for list rental purposes is not there.

"Rather than renting lists, they might be much better off in investing in some expensive space advertising program in men's fashion books or [magazines] that tend to be very strong for mail order," Dean said. "It's a slower build to their list, but basically the only people who are going to contact them are people who fit their category [and] who have had trouble finding merchandise that can fit them.

"This all takes you back to cataloging of 30 years ago when catalogers did a lot of space advertising because lists were not as sufficient as they are today."

What has helped Short Sizes is other catalogers that have searched their house lists and retrieved buyers of merchandise for short men, Stern said. The company has worked with one cataloger, which Stern did not identify, that generated 12,000 names, resulting in a 5 percent conversion rate. But finding catalogers willing to do this has been difficult.

"If anyone can do that, we would love to rent those lists," he said.

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