Merger Changes Look of Art Cataloger's Print Book, Web Site

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NextMonet Inc., a 2-year-old purveyor of limited editions and original hand-signed artwork, plans to reinvent its print catalog and Web site this summer and fall.


The expected redesign of its catalog and site follows the San Francisco company's merger in January with Visualize Inc., a 2-year-old cataloger and e-tailer of limited-edition fine art. NextMonet previously sold only one-of-a-kind artwork via its Web site. The combined companies now sell thousands of framed and unframed oil paintings, watercolors and photographs, as well as sculptures and collages.


Unlike Visualize, also of San Francisco, which had been mailing a catalog since its inception, NextMonet entered the business of print catalogs just last fall.


"[NextMonet] didn't have the depth of experience [in the catalog business] that we had," said Abby Adlerman, Visualize's founder, who was its president/CEO and now is president/CEO of NextMonet.


NextMonet, whose area of expertise was managing its content-rich Web site, previously had dropped only one catalog totaling 150,000 books, compared with Visualize's six or seven catalogs, totaling close to 5 million books since the latter company's inception.


While the company does not plan to increase its circulation, it is mailing its catalogs to both NextMonet's and Visualize's lists. Visualize's house file contains more than 75,000 names, but there is little overlap with NextMonet's.


"Even though the artwork [is] pretty different, the customers aren't really that different, and therefore offering our combined customers a broader range of product really does make sense," Adlerman said.


Meanwhile, because "we're still a small company, we don't want to ignore our growth," Adlerman said. "We're still barely scratching the surface, and we very much want to build our brand. The catalog is probably the single most important vehicle for creating awareness."


NextMonet intends to mail 80 percent of its catalogs to prospects. Mokrynski & Associates, Hackensack, NJ, handles list brokerage for the merchant.


The 76-page, 8.5-inch-by-11-inch Summer I catalog, which hit homes in mid-April, resembles the old Visualize books and was mailed under the Visualize name. But this is the first book to introduce NextMonet's name and Web address. It also features, for the first time, a center-spread insert highlighting the company's expanded offering at the NextMonet site. The Summer II catalog will drop in mid-May, and the Summer III catalog, which NextMonet plans to drop in June, will don NextMonet's name. The company also plans to add more content to the catalog before the end of the year.


NextMonet plans to mail six more catalogs in 2001 -- two more in the summer totaling close to 500,000 books and four books for the fall/winter holiday season, totaling close to 2 million books. R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co., Chicago, prints the books, which are designed inhouse.


The redesigned site, www.nextmonet.com, which is managed inhouse, will launch in June. It will have "more of the look and feel" of the current "cleaner, less busy" NextMonet site, but the merchandising and navigation will resemble Visualize's current site, www.visualize.com, Adlerman said. It will combine both companies' product lines.


While Adlerman had expected sales to migrate more toward the Web, the catalog has remained its most significant sales-generating vehicle. Two-thirds of Visualize's orders are generated via its print catalog; the remaining third comes from the Web site. This is consistent with the ratio of sales generated via catalog last summer to those generated by the Web. The average order size is $350.


"The vast majority of the business we do get on the Web is driven either by our catalog or by our e-mail marketing," Adlerman said.


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