Circulation Cut Balances Order Drop at Renaissance

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Orders are down 10 percent for the most recent Renaissance catalog from Chivalry Sports compared with 2001, but that's good news because the company cut circulation from 165,000 last year to 140,000 this year.


"We expected a 15 percent drop in orders to coincide with the drop in circulation, and going down 10 percent [in orders] was better than we expected," said Gael Stirler, CEO of Chivalry Sports Inc., Tucson, AZ.


The catalog dropped Sept. 4, with all names coming from Chivalry's house file. In 2001, the company sent its comparable catalog in August. The average order is virtually unchanged: $95.04 last year compared with $94.80 this year.


No prospecting was done with the current catalog, Stirler said, after "we did one small test list last year and we weren't excited with the results" on 10,000 names.


"For the current catalog we went back two years in our house file and mailed to buyers and those who made inquiries about our company," she said. "Last year we also went back two years and we had more names, so there's been some loss of names based on that criteria. Also, we did a better job of dupe deleting this year."


The company is pleased with the results given that the costumes and other specialty items in the catalog are usually the first to suffer in a weak economy.


"Our company is 11 years old, and we had growth every year up until the end of 2000 with the collapse of the dot-coms," Stirler said. "People who were iffy and making smaller orders in the past can't place orders at all. We were growing 50 [percent] to 70 percent per year, but we didn't realize that a large number of our customers were working in the technology sector."


Helping performance, however, was that many of the catalog's customers are involved in medieval and Renaissance activities.


"Many of our customers are members of medieval Renaissance recreation groups and attend Renaissance festivals as well as Halloween and masquerade events," she said. "Masquerades are becoming increasingly popular, and there are hundreds of Renaissance festivals throughout the country and nearly every state has at least one Renaissance festival."


The book's target audience has a median age of 35 to 44 with the overwhelming majority being married.


Though the book stayed at 64 pages and more than 600 SKUs, Chivalry worked to improve the photography and design.


"We used a better photographer this year, and we've gone from 35mm film to digital along with using a better studio," she said. "We also cut the copy a little and we concentrated more on words that stimulate the senses. And the dark background used with page headers last year was eliminated for a much cleaner look.


"We also have younger models in this issue. We were looking for better-looking models. We used to be proud of regular folk, but now we're using younger models. We have a relationship with a community college that helps us with that, and we get the models for next to nothing. I also use my son and daughter, both of whom already work for the company."


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