New Lists Click for Sports Memorabilia Catalog

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With a product line targeted at sports enthusiasts willing to spend hundreds of dollars or more on autographed collectibles, prospecting lists that deliver these upper-income buyers are critical for Grandstand Sports & Memorabilia Inc.

The company's lists did not perform up to expectations last holiday season, president/CEO Howard Schwartz said, but this year has been a comeback season for the company after retooling its list selection.

"A stockbroker list we used last year did not work for us, and we also did not use The Sharper Image list this year that was used last year," he said.

The target customer is "someone who would shop at a Herrington or Hammacher Schlemmer catalog," he said. Hammacher Schlemmer names performed well last year and were used again this holiday season. New this year were a list of Wall Street Journal subscribers and memorabilia buyers from CBS

"This year we ordered 40,000 prospect names from two or three of the lists used last year and two or three lists where we took a shot this year," he said.

Schwartz anticipates a 4.5 percent response rate for the 2003 Collectibles and Gifts catalog, up from 3.8 percent for last year's book. The average order also has risen -- $300 to $325 so far compared with $240 to $250 a year ago. This is tied to a $25 increase in the book's average price per item to $200, which Schwartz attributed to higher signing fees by athletes.

"Overall, my business is up 45 percent compared to last year," he said. "And that was after being down in January and February of this year compared to 2001."

The catalog mailed Nov. 17 to about 40,000 prospects and 11,000 names from its house file. Seventy percent of recipients live in the New York metropolitan area. The company has a store in Manhattan.

"With the selects I use, I don't segregate by gender," he said. "We make sure we have women athletes in the book as well as male athletes. Our selects from the lists we purchase include recency with an emphasis on six- to 12-month buyers. Our selects also include kids who play sports, adults who are season-ticket holders and consumers with sports-related interests. When people buy for kids, the dollar sign is less important."

Schwartz plans an emphasis on prospecting and an effort to raise circulation by 10,000 to 15,000 annually.

"When we make a sale, we're capturing the client, and the goal is to have that client buy year-round for personal or gift needs, charitable donations, corporate gifts or special events," said Schwartz, whose company has produced a catalog for eight years. "People will likely buy more than once throughout the year, and our customer referral rate is very high. When you sell a high-end product, it becomes something that people consistently turn to you for.

"My most successful catalog mailings in the past have not always been the result of what the house file has produced. Your house file will know about most of your products, and the catalog is something of a reminder. People who don't know who you are will produce orders that will be more expansive than someone who has a good collection of merchandise."

The catalog is 16 pages, "the perfect size," he said. "With a 32-page catalog, people would get lost in it."

Big sellers so far include items from New York Ranger Mark Messier -- a $699 autographed jersey and $449 autographed stick. Also selling well are items autographed by the "Miracle on Ice" U.S. hockey team that won the gold medal at the 1980 Winter Olympics as well as a Rat Pack Original Vegas Chips & Cards item at $499.

The catalog lists a toll-free phone number or Web site to place orders, but 99 percent of catalog sales are by phone, which is how Schwartz wants it.

"I want to encourage cross-sell and upsell on the phone," he said. "Salespeople, and not customer service reps, take the calls, and I want them to get introduced to customers in order to establish relationships with them."


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