Sam's Club Takes On Office Supplies Giants With First Catalog

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After several years of speculation that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. was eyeing a catalog venture, it announced yesterday that its warehouse club division Sam's Club has launched an office products catalog for members.


The 580-page premiere issue, which is valid through July 2006, was mailed recently to approximately 20 million members out of Sam's Club total membership of more 46 million. In addition, the catalog is available online at www.samsclub.com and at 500-plus Sam's Club stores, which are positioned as warehouse clubs for small businesses.


Prospecting is being done at a "grassroots-level," according to company spokeswoman Jolanda Stewart.


This means in-store sales teams will be charged with signing up customers to receive the catalog.


The catalog is a "key strategy" as Sam's Club tries to reposition itself as an office supplies destination, Stewart said.


An annual circulation figure was not available.


"Taking a proactive stance on office products is a new positioning for us," Stewart said, which essentially means it's taking on Office Depot, Staples and OfficeMax. "Previously, it was secondary."


According to a recent survey of small business owners by the retailer, controlling costs and managing time effectively are among their top concerns. Sam's Club contends a catalog will help it better meet small business owners' needs.


By making the catalog available over the Internet, the retailer has significantly expanded its online product selection.


The market for office products targeted at small business owners is growing increasingly competitive, and Sam's Club isn't the only player beefing up its marketing efforts.


Earlier this year, Office Depot partnered with NASCAR for a series of local sweepstakes targeted at small business owners.


While Staples, Office Depot and OfficeMax have all had catalogs for some time, none of them make their general books available to view online.


The Sam's Club catalog is divided into 14 sections, including office supplies, home and health care, beauty salons and barbershops, contractors and maintenance/repair, childcare and schools.


Sam's Club has several other initiatives planned for this year to help it better compete in the office products industry. This includes an expanded in-store presence for office products and enhanced online benefits for business members such as networking opportunities and business advice.


Chantal Todé covers catalog and retail news and BTB marketing for DM News and DM News.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletter
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