Corvette Cataloger Turns to Classic, New Beetles

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As the launch of the new Volkswagen Beetle spotlights the loyalties of original Bug enthusiasts and creates a new generation of fans, a company is attempting to reach both with a new Volkswagen catalog.

Mid America Designs, Effingham, IL, whose founder and president, Mike Yager, built his love of Corvettes into a 250-page catalog with an annual mailing of 3 million, dropped his first Volkswagen catalog this spring.

"It's a cult car with a following of enthusiasts," Yager said, explaining why Volkswagen owners are the first new market he has targeted since he started the company in 1974. "Its following is made up of different people, but the same type of people."

The initial Mid America Volkswagen catalog offers parts, accessories and merchandise related to all air-cooled Volkswagens built between 1950 and 1979, said Yager, who noted that those models seem to have the strongest following. The catalog includes parts and components for Volkswagen's Beetle, Super Beetle, Karmann Ghia, Thing and Bus.

The second issue, to be mailed in September, will include a supplement devoted to the new Beetle.

"I think there will be a lot of accessories for the new Beetle, and it will be accessorized by a lot of people," he said.

The initial catalog was dropped to 125,000 people, whose names were pulled from car magazine subscription lists and motor vehicle registration lists. The company has not tested the catalog with its house file of Corvette owners, though Yager thinks there may be some cross-over and is planning a future test.

Unlike the company's flagship Corvette catalog, which is laid out in the standard 8-1/2-inch-by-11-inch format, the 68-page Volkswagen catalog is horizontal and measures 8 inches by 10 1/2 inches.

"Cars are horizontal," Yager said. "Every time you get a car shot, you have to figure out how to adjust it to a regular page. We wanted something that was different."

From a merchandising perspective, one of the biggest challenges was trimming the new catalog down to 68 pages, just over a quarter the size of the company's Corvette catalog.

While Yager declined to release specific response numbers, he said the average order size was large and responses were strong.

"At first we were enthusiastic, but now we've shifted to ecstatic," he said.

It was too early to determine which items were best sellers, but car parts were selling better than merchandise, he said.

The company is planning six mail drops within the next year, with circulation for the September mailing expected to reach 200,000 as the company continues to test different merchandise mixes.

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