Hanes Airs Program for T-ShirtMaker Software

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In an effort to bolster sales of its two-year-old Hanes T-ShirtMaker software for the small office/home office market, Hanes Printables Inc., Winston-Salem, NC, launched its first infomercial last month.

The company, a division of Sarah Lee Corp., had tested the product first on QVC last year. Based on the product sell-through rate, Hanes decided to run its own direct response program, with plans for continued expansion.

"The success of the product on QVC is what really pushed us into the DRTV arena," said Angela Townsend, marketing coordinator of Hanes Printables. "We saw it as the opportunity to sell it ourselves and to further market directly to consumers."

Hanes sold 1,200 Hanes T-ShirtMakers in 10 minutes on the shopping network. "We realized this [DRTV] really demonstrates the product well," she said. "We started looking at it as a way to get the software into people's hands."

Hanes T-ShirtMaker is a T-shirt making package that includes a CD-ROM, a heavy-duty T-shirt and two sheets of ink-jet transfer paper. The software contains 500 clip art graphics, 400 ready-made designs that can be customized, 30 fonts and more than 1,000 special effects. The software also features special printing techniques such as mirror printing and multiple image printing per sheet. The process requires desiging an image on either a 386 IBM PC or compatible computer, printing it with an ink-jet printer on special ink-jet transfer paper and ironing the image onto a cotton T-shirt.

The product sells for $49.95 and is also available at retail with a modified offer of additional T-shirts and online through www.hanes2u.com. Townsend said the back-end program has been helping to contribute to strong ratios. The company recently introduced its own version of heat transfer paper is using that product for up-sell opportunities.

"We are seeing a 77 percent up-sell on that paper," Townsend said. Currently the company sells the initial package with either Canon or Hewlett-Packard paper, but promotes its own paper on the back-end and also sells it at retail. The company is also in planning stages to convert a seven-minute segment of the infomercial to video clips that would run on the Web site. "We are looking at digitizing the first pod so when people come to the web site this closes the loop for them."

Townsend said the product retails in numerous computer and office supply superstores but the company is increasingly trying to reach hobby enthusiasts.

"We have seen a little resistance in customers in traditional hobby stores," Townsend said. "We're trying to push more into that craft channel." The program currently runs on Comedy Channel, The Learning Channel, E! Entertainment, the Product Information Network and Home & Garden Television, among others.

"This is the first time we are in a DRTV application and we are getting great returns on our media expenses right now," she said. "We are also seeing back-end sales spike and expecting a lift at retail." She projected that average ratios are running at 2 percent, with some buys generating as high as a 7 percent return.

Williams Worldwide Inc., Santa Monica, CA, handles media for the spot, which was produced by The Tyee Group, Portland, OR. Hanes has several companies handling telemarketing and fulfillment, but declined to disclose the names of those companies while it reviews their performance.

Tyee had produced an infomercial for a comparable technological product about two years ago for Jump!Music and the company's "Piano Discovery System." The product combined a software and hardware package for PC use to train people to play piano, said Doug Garnett, a vice president with Tyee.

"Jump had tremendous success with the infomercial driving retail sales," Garnett said. "The infomercial was hosted by Herbie Hancock and it shared challenges similar to T-ShirtMaker in that it required a some level of PCs."

"They demonstrated the product well," said John Kogler, publisher of the Greensheet, an infomercial monitoring report by Jordan Whitney Inc., Irvine, CA. "It will be insteresting to see whether they can find enough computer owners that would be interested in order to generate sufficient orders to make the thing pay out."

"Given the high-tech nature of the product, it truly is unique and it is interesting to have a big name brand behind the product like that," Kogler added.

While Hanes funded the actual production, the software maker, Austin-James, is covering media costs. Hanes cross-referenced lists of CD-ROM buyers in order to determine media distribution but would not say how many consumer names were on their list.

"That really helped us get our target market for our test," Townsend said. "The test started second week of April and we generated 500 orders from that. We ramped up our media plan and we have indefinite plans to increase media spending every week probably hitting the maximum at the end of May."

The infomercial is intended to promote the idea of gift giving for personal use and for business premiums for the small office market. Through all sales mediums the company has provided an "Oops Proof Guarantee." The guarantee allows customers who use the Hanes T-ShirtMaker on Hanes products, but mess up their designs, to return six garments annually.

The company projects it will be able to squeeze about one to three years out of the show with modifications. Although Townsend would not disclose total production costs for the commercial, she said the company saved talent costs by using local actors but increased spending by shooting in film rather than video format, which raised production costs by about $35,000, Townsend said.

"We're happy with it," Townsend said. "It was an extra expense but it lends a nice quality and it is important for Hanes to maintain a strong image."

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