Military Cataloger Reinforces Book With New Offerings

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The Army & Air Force Exchange Service is adding more home decor items, jewelry and cookware to its spring/summer 2001 Exchange catalog.


Approximately 50,000 copies of the 500-page-plus catalog will drop on Jan. 23 and will be received by military personnel who have previously ordered from the cataloger. The company, which falls under the control of the Department of Defense but does not use public funds, is also mailing 175,000 redemption cards to members of the military who can exchange them for catalogs at the 120 AAFES brick-and-mortar stores nationwide, as well as at overseas locations.


The company provides products to military personnel exclusively.


"There are about 18 new name-brand items we included in the spring book that should add excitement to the shopping experience," said Bob Carreras, vice president of the cyber region at AAFES, Dallas. "We have things like Dale Tiffany lamps and accessories that coordinate with the many home decor items that have become very popular among our customers."


The "big book" drops biannually in the spring and fall while several other smaller catalogs that include electronics, fitness, holiday, home decor and baby items are dropped throughout the year. The company has its own database of 10.5 million names and does not buy or sell its lists. It mails approximately 1.6 million catalogs each year.


"We validate information with the [Department of Defense]," Carreras said. "When they update our list, they do so to better help us [serve] the military."


Other items added to the spring/summer book include: Zodiac Swatch watches, Le Cruset cookware and a line of Judith Jett costume jewelry. To make room for the additions, Carreras said a few low-performance items were removed, such as some electronics, bedding and individual shoes items. He would not reveal the cost to produce the catalog nor the return on investment needed to characterize the spring/summer drop as a success.


The cataloger's e-commerce site, at www.aafes.com, was created in 1996. It produced 48 percent of AAFES' direct marketing sales prior to the recently concluded holiday season while the catalog accounted for the remaining 52 percent.


The company anticipates $90 million in sales this year from its catalog operations and online source, combined.


"The catalog has always been able to provide the customer with special items that may not be in our stores," said Barry Gordon, senior vice president of the cyber region at AAFES. "It's designed to give them access to items if there aren't any brick-and-mortar stores in an area where they may be located."


The 7-inch-by-10-inch catalog offers about 22,000 items that range in price from $6.95 for a belt pouch to $1,495 for a Whirlpool refrigerator. The average sales order is $145 for catalog sales and $155 for online sales.


The company used 36-pound No. 5 coated paper to produce the catalog. Carreras said the company wanted to use a better quality paper to withstand wear and tear.
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