Variety Adds Spice for Expressions

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A design change to inject more variety into Potpourri Holdings' Expressions catalog helped the book exceed expectations this spring.

"There's more varied density. Instead of having nine items on every spread, we wanted seven on one and 10 on another," said Jack Rosenfeld, president of Potpourri Holdings Inc., Medfield, MA. "We believe it helped. This year's book has a decreased density, with the SKUs down from 330 last spring to 300. We didn't want every single spread to look identical. The mission was not a radical change. We wanted to improve it, not fix it."

The gains were small but steady for the book, which carries out-of-the-ordinary home and gift items. The response rate was 1.2 percent, up from 1 percent last year. The average order amount was $131, up from $125 last year. The average units per order remained at 1.4.

"Along with our change in the creative approach, our merchandise focused more on items for the home and away from gifts," Rosenfeld said.

The variety continued with the use of three cover shots. Inside pages remained identical. One of the three versions included an additional eight-page spring sale section in the middle. This version also used a different back cover than the other two.

The company leveraged the house files of other titles it publishes to mail 830,000 copies of the spring Expressions, up from 760,000 last spring.

"We as a company overall had a strong year in the prior year with very nice growth in our house file, and Expressions mails to a lot of 'sister' names," he said. "Those are names from the other nine titles we publish. We also had a strong response during the most recent fall and holiday seasons, so we tended to be more aggressive."

The company's sister catalogs are Potpourri, NorthStyle, Catalog Favorites, The Pyramid Collection, Serengeti, Back in the Saddle, Nature's Jewelry, The Stitchery and In the Company of Dogs.

"The number of prospects is up somewhat from the prior year, but most of the increase in circulation comes from the growth in the Expressions house file and the increased use of the sister files," he said. "Prospects represent about one-third of this mailing, which is roughly the same as last year, and the Expressions' house file and the sister names from the other nine books account for the rest of the spring 2002 circulation."

The book's target demographic has an average age in the low 50s, is 90-plus percent female and has an average household income of $80,000 to $85,000. The page count of 48 matches last year's. The book is produced six times a year.

Drop dates included March 15 and April 10.

The Country Ambiance spread featured items such as Country Quilts Canisters ($69, set of four), Sunflower Acres Rug ($120), Americana Picnic Basket ($115) and Museum-Finish Reproduction Paintings ($115).

Sales realized via the Internet at have risen from 10 percent to 13 percent .

Rosenfeld said the cost per book was flat at 35 cents to 45 cents, while dollars generated per book was $1.60 this spring compared with $1.25 last year.

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