With Raises on Hold, Things Remembered Touts Employee Gifts

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Personalized gifts retailer Things Remembered Inc. will drop a new catalog Dec. 26 aimed at small businesses affected by the weak economy.

Styled as a business recognition catalog, the 28-page book goes to 350,000 12-month best customers of the retailer. Messaging inside is meant to reflect that it is not just another gift catalog, but a recognition book.

"Some companies can't right now give raises and they can't reinstate decreases in salary, so this is a way of letting somebody know that 'I know you're working twice as hard because there may be fewer people in your department and we notice it,' " said Sylvia Morrison, president of Things Remembered agency Wolf Direct Marketing, Cleveland.

Even the headline aims to convey that sentiment: "Reward your colleagues, celebrate your friends."

"During this time of uncertainty, letting employees and customers know that they're valued and appreciated is a priceless psychological paycheck with long-term payback," said Suzanne Sutter, president of Things Remembered.

The catalog will reach businesses in early January and will carry 140 items priced from $19.99 to $175.

"About 100 of them are priced under $50, again being sensitive to the economy," Morrison said.

Items range from lighters to tankards as well as standards like plaques and clocks. National Football League merchandise for each team also will be featured, including throws.

"It's merchandise that almost crosses occasion and sentiment," Morrison said. "It's Things Remembered's answer to the America we live in now."

A chain of 800 stores in 46 states, Things Remembered is based in the Cleveland suburb of Highland Heights. It mailed nine catalogs this year -- four business, three all-occasion and two wedding books. The retailer also undertakes numerous mail campaigns, from graduation to Mother's Day and St. Valentine's Day.

Direct marketing is a major contributor to Things Remembered's bottom line. The company boasts a database of 6 million names, segregated by consumer, wedding party and business files. The lists are up for rental.

Though traditional direct marketing is a big business driver, Things Remembered is increasingly using e-mail to complement print mail. On Dec. 26, for example, it will drop 50,000 e-mails to selected best customers in its house file. Morrison said there could be a small overlap with customers that were mailed catalogs.

The e-mail touts special offers for free logos, and in certain cases the engraving message is included in the price. These incentives are new for Things Remembered.

Morrison expects that the catalog's items, which can be personalized with a message on the gift itself, will resonate especially with small businesses that have 25 to 100 workers.

"Many of these items are popular in the ... under-50 employee size, because they're particularly hit in this economy and they can't do as much perhaps [as larger companies in terms of employee rewards]," Morrison said.


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