MoMA Catalog Thinks Smaller to Maintain Profit

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The Museum of Modern Art's Fall 2001 Gift Catalog underwent minor changes this year, including a slightly smaller page count and the introduction of some lower-price items.


Though the circulation of 800,000 and SKU total of 400 remained constant for the 10 7/16-inch-by-8-inch book that dropped Aug. 20, the page count fell from 56 to 52 and there was more emphasis on using "tried and true" lists, said Caroline Bretter, direct response manager in the retail department of MoMA, New York.


"We're a division of a nonprofit institution, and all of our proceeds support the museum, so we did decrease the page count in an effort to maintain profitability," she said.


A response rate of 2.5 percent is expected. However, last fall's average order size of $135 is expected to decrease this year to about $125 because of weakness in the economy and the placement of more "value-oriented" items in this fall's book.


"It's coming in right on plan, and we planned well," Bretter said. "Last year our best-selling item was a dollhouse set at $295. Products are included this year at lower price points, and our average price point is down slightly.


"We heard that many catalogers had a rough spring season," she said, "so we looked to include items such as a chess set designed by Karim Rashid [page 51, $50] and a Philippe Starck digital watch [page 43, $95]."


By contrast, page 7 features a lounge chair and ottoman by Charles and Ray Eames that costs $3,200 and a Marcel Breuer folding chair for $1,285 (page 23). The book's categories include furniture, personal accessories and jewelry. MoMA drops five catalogs per year, but they are virtually identical in terms of size and product offering, except for the cover art and a few inside pages.


The fall mailing consisted of 60 percent prospects obtained from outside lists, 6 percent MoMA members and 34 percent previous customers who made purchases through the museum's mail-order division.


"We're looking for people earning $50,000 to $75,000 and up," Bretter said. "We tend to model on ZIP codes, and we look for affinity to the product. We sell modern-design products, so I look for similar-type books [for lists], including Metropolis magazine, which has exactly the same target. We also use lists from other upscale books."


About 25 percent to 30 percent of the catalog's business comes online at momastore.org; phone orders account for most of the rest. Order forms mailed in account for about 3 percent; international customers are directed to use the fax option.


As a nonprofit, MoMA spends about 15 cents to mail each book. The cost is part of an overall expense of 80 cents to produce and mail each piece.


Every price in the book also includes a price for MoMA members -- 10 percent off the regular price. Membership categories include individual ($75), family or dual membership ($120) and national/international ($60) for people living more than 150 miles from New York.


"Members are our most loyal customers," Bretter said. "The discount drives membership and sales. We also provide special sales to members. There are events in which we will offer 20 percent off on all items six times per year for members, who are notified of these events with a postcard or e-mail."


Members typically produce a much greater response rate (6 percent overall last year) and a higher average order size (about $182 for last year's fall book) than the average customer.


MoMA has 35,000 to 40,000 members.


"Unlike a frequent-buyer program, they also get free admission to the museum and receive a monthly magazine regarding exhibitions," she said. "The discount on items in the catalog applies to new members as soon as they join."


A 16-page, 9 15/16-inch-by-7-inch catalog-within-a-catalog titled MoMA Holiday 2001 Holiday Cards, Ornaments, and Gift Wrap is placed in the center of the book. The insert is expected to account for 15 percent to 20 percent of the book's overall sales.


"We used to do the holiday cards as just pages in the book, but two years ago we made it its own insert," Bretter said. "It's become quite effective. A lot of people know us for our holiday-themed gifts."


Pluzynski Associates, New York, helps MoMA produce the catalog. The printer is Arandell Corp., Menomonee Falls, WI.


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