Mets Get Off to Fast Start -- With Catalog

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The New York Mets play their first game of the season tomorrow, but the baseball team already hit a home run with its 2004 catalog that dropped last month.


The book's average order is 10 percent ahead of last year's $65. Expectations also are high for the response rate.


"We think we can be up 20 percent [on the response rate] by the end of the year," said Jason Scheets, chief operating officer of Star Struck/ProTeam Inc., Bethel, CT, which is in its second year of producing the book. "Last year it was about 3 percent. This year the merchandise is more varied, and there's plenty of newer merchandise. A big function of this is how well the Mets do. If they get hot, obviously, the book will do even better."


The team, which finished in last place the past two seasons, looks to improve on 2003, when it won only 66 games while losing 95. It was the team's worst record since 1993.


Page count is up this year from 24 to 32 to accommodate new items, many of which have been top sellers since the book mailed in mid-March.


"The number of pages increased based on the results of the catalog last year and the demand for additional products," he said.


Among the new "hot" items are the orange Franchise Hooded Sweatshirt ($59.99) that appears on the cover along with the Full Zip Hooded Sweatshirt ($49.95). From the Cooperstown Collectibles page, the new Nolan Ryan bobblehead doll ($19.95) is selling briskly. Also selling well in the bobblehead category is one of new Met Kazuo Matsui ($19.95), whose T-shirt at $17.95 also is doing well.


A two-page spread containing women's apparel is producing solid results and represents expansion of the product line based on last year's demand. One T-shirt style a year ago was increased to six this year.


The back cover includes the new Cooperstown Custom Jerseys selling for $179.95.


Also appearing this year is apparel showcasing the team's minor league affiliates, a bedroom and home furnishings page along with golf-themed items such as a divot repair set.


Average price points in the book are unchanged from a year ago and include hats, $18.95 to $24.95; T-shirts, $15.95; and outerwear, $60.


This year's cover features product with only one image of a player, while action shots can be found throughout the book. Last year's cover had three player photos.


"There's a lot more player photos inside this year's catalog because the team wanted to market their players and build more fan recognition with them," Scheets said.


Circulation remained around 150,000 and included no prospects.


"We had enough names, and these are strong, solid names," said Ken Karlan, president of Star Struck/ProTeam Inc. "Prospecting could never achieve the returns we're getting from the names we're currently using."


Recipients included names from the catalog's house list, the team's season-ticket holders, Mets Kids Club members and those appearing on the company's house list of buyers of Mets-themed merchandise from Star Struck/ProTeam's main catalog, which features sports-themed merchandise from college and pro teams.


Demographic information was unavailable regarding the targeted audience's average age, household income or male/female split.


"All we care about is they are somehow tied to the Mets," Karlan said. "Demos are not important, only that you're a Mets fan or a catalog buyer of Mets merchandise."


Scheets described a smooth process between the company and team in producing the catalog.


"They give us a lot of leeway," he said. "Of course, we show it to them for their approval. We send them a template before we go full bore on it, and once they agree on the template, we'll go ahead and complete the design. The entire process begins in mid-November, and it goes to the printer at the end of February."


Despite the increased page count, Karlan said, the company kept the per-piece expense of the catalog under 50 cents -- as it was a year ago.


"[The cost was up] a little, but nothing significant," he said.


The company also produces individual catalogs for three other baseball teams -- the Milwaukee Brewers, Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates.


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