Treasures Gains Wealth of Experience

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Mitch Siegler has learned a lot since the first Treasures from a Bygone Era catalog was produced last spring. Though the page count has stayed at 52, much has changed since the inaugural book.

"We made a lot of mistakes last year," said Siegler, president/CEO of Fulcrum Investments Inc., San Diego, the catalog's publisher. "We made design and creative errors, including inappropriate density, as well as circulation and merchandising mistakes. With a brand-new business you have zero information on what items to sell and where to prospect. We're still guessing on a lot of things, maybe 50 percent instead of 100 percent. Not every item is a guess and not every list is a guess now. This year we utilized a dozen distinct lists, including Abacus models."

Treasures from a Bygone Era features gifts and collectibles. A tagline on the spring 2002 cover refers to them as "the heirlooms of tomorrow." The company increased product density and changed the fonts to make the spring 2002 book more readable.

"Our creative execution has dramatically improved along with our merchandise selection process, and there is a better relationship between items on pages," Siegler said. "No more than 20 percent of the merchandise that was in the spring 2001 book has survived to be in the spring 2002 catalog. We made so many mistakes last year, and we learned from them. And based on product categories that have been purchased, we are doing a better job of targeting our house file."

Two-page spreads that would average seven or eight product depictions a year ago now contain 10. The first of three drops proclaims "Over 100 new items inside!" on the cover.

"Square-inch analysis said we needed more on the pages to have the book pay for itself, and so we went from 200 depictions last year to 250," he said. "Our density wasn't appropriate. Last spring we tried many 'superhero' offers that didn't pay for themselves. The density increase has benefited the current book."

Results for the first of three spring 2002 drops include an average order amount that is on plan at just more than $100. It was $90 a year ago.

"It's a combination of the response rate, better items appearing in the catalog and the fact that the more expensive items are selling better than last year," Siegler said. "We have some $100 to $300 items selling well, and last year we didn't have as many of those items in the book."

Average units per order is on plan at about 2.5 after last spring's 2.25. Siegler characterized the response rate as being up more than 10 percent over spring 2001.

Consumers choose from items such as a gothic blanket chest ($349), double bookcase ($595) and handcrafted medieval tapestries ranging from $249 to $749.

Planned circulation for the spring remains at last year's 550,000, as does the split between house file (one-third) and prospects (two-thirds). The first drop of 270,000 was in homes April 22. The second drop of 180,000 was in mailboxes May 29, and a third drop of 100,000 will arrive June 21. Only the covers are changed.

The target is two-thirds women ages 45 to 60 living in households with annual incomes of $75,000 or more, who tend to live in metropolitan areas and were described by Siegler as "travelers who enjoy art and culture." Two-thirds of the women who get the book work outside the home.

The company also will publish fall and holiday catalogs this year. Last year, Fulcrum produced a fall/holiday catalog in addition to the spring book.

After 12 percent to 15 percent of last year's spring book orders were realized via, the percentage has risen to 20 this spring. Phone accounts for 60 percent of the current book's orders with 20 percent coming from mailed-in order forms.


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