UPDATE: Allpets Launches Online Pet Industry's First Catalog

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Three months after being acquired by business-to-business retailer PetQuarters Inc., Allpets.com has become the first among the Internet-only pet-supply retailers to launch a print catalog.

The 92-page book is going out initially to nearly 2 million Allpets customers, former buyers and prospects whose names were rented from outside lists. Four drops through January target pet-owning women between ages 25 and 60 with an annual household income of $57,000.

"It allows us to build brand equity," said Niloofar Razi Howe, president of Allpets, Los Angeles. "When you look at the difference in ordering patterns between catalog and online, the dollar volume per order from catalog customers is higher. Also, the catalog becomes its own stand-alone marketing tool."

The Allpets catalog is one in a succession of print extensions announced recently by online retailers. Seeking another sales channel, Internet-only retailers such as Art.com, lucy.com, RedEnvelope.com, Tavolo.com and Garden.com have debuted books that carry a large number of items displayed in their online stores.

In Allpets' case, the catalog -- whose drop began earlier this month -- debuted simultaneously with the relaunch of the site at www.allpets.com. The new site combines the online personas of Allpets and PetQuarters and is supported by a warehouse and inhouse call center in Hazleton, PA.

Though Razi Howe would not disclose the size of the drops after the debut effort, she said the subsequent drops would target known buyers. Drops are slated for Thanksgiving, Christmas and in January for spring. Each drop has four mailings, spaced less than a month apart.

Outside names of likely prospects that fit Allpets' consumer demographic were rented from lists supplied by Edith Roman Associates Inc., Pearl River, NY. The quantity was not disclosed.

Priced at $2, the catalog offers consumers free shipping on Internet orders, an incentive that the retailer hopes will drive traffic to the Allpets site and result in higher purchases. According to direct marketing industry estimates, nearly 80 percent of catalog sales take place within 40 days of the drop.

Founded four years ago, Allpets sells everything related to pets but food. Like the site, the catalog offers products for dogs, cats, fish, birds, small animals and reptiles. Items sold include toys, books, beds, cleaners, collars and leads, feeders, gifts, pet wear, shampoos, and training and behavioral aids.

The Web site boasts 14,000 items, and the catalog has 3,000.

Avoiding food was a deliberate decision, Razi Howe said.

"Selling food online is not a money-making proposition because of the shipping costs," she said. "They're prohibitive, and consumers don't want to pick it up. If you sell pet food online, you have to pretty much accept that you're going to lose money on it, which is what all of our competitors have done."

Razi Howe was referring to the recent ferment in the online pet-supply market involving players such as Pets.com, Petopia.com, Petstore.com, PETsMART.com and PetFoodDirect.com. For instance, Petstore.com went belly up in June and sold its assets to Pets.com.

And then there is the problem of me-toos, or lack of product differentiation.

"Because of the money that was raised for online ventures, there was a lot of confusion and a lot of online pet supply companies started at the same time," Razi Howe said. "There were a lot of price wars that also started at the same time. The challenge was to keep focused on a business model you believe in and keep forging ahead."

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