NBA Expects Bounce From Circulation Rise

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The National Basketball Association is upping the ante for its league catalog with a 50 percent increase in circulation for the latest book, which goes Nov. 1 to coincide with the holiday season and the start of the NBA season.


"We decided that the optimal time to drop our holiday book would be with the start of the season," said Linda Choong, vice president, retail group at the NBA, New York. "The fan is very focused on basketball again."


This is the fourth catalog produced by the NBA. It will go to 750,000 fans, following winter 2000-01, spring-summer 2001 and spring 2002 books, each of which went to 500,000 fans.


"The goal is to do three books per year at 1 million circulation per book," she said. "Next year we will produce a catalog for the spring, and we will do a back-to-school/fall book that will come out in August, followed by a holiday edition."


The league is sticking with a formula from spring 2002: 12 percent will go to names obtained through list rentals, including consumers defined as basketball enthusiasts and catalog shoppers showing interest in basketball. The rest will go to names from the league's house file, including previous NBA catalog purchasers and names obtained through all-star game balloting and the league's New York store.


"We are using four lists after using five lists in the spring," Choong said. "With each book we send out, we get smarter with our database marketing and we're better equipped to target our fans. While we decreased the number of lists, we are using more names because we found during the spring that basketball gear and apparel are hot in terms of fashion.


"We're targeting fans with team preferences and those who are interested in us just for the sake of fashion. We knew from the spring that we were getting the hard-core fans who felt compelled to buy. That success was the reason for the increase in circulation for this book."


The average price of catalog items is unchanged from the spring at $50, the anticipated average order is expected to reach $80, which would be up from $70 in the spring.


"The unit drivers are expected to do that for us along with the new, higher-priced items," she said. "We're not really concerned about the economy. We've been very fortunate that the catalog has been extremely strong."


Unit drivers expected to produce impressive sales include NBA headbands and wristbands, both priced at $8.


"With the low price point it's a nice add-on item for a catalog sale," she said. "The number of players wearing headbands in games last season is expected to drive sales this season."


On-court products such as jerseys and shooting shirts are expected to remain top sellers.


Other items expected to perform well include the NBA Velour Warm-Up ($189.99) and the Collage Jacket ($1,800 for leather and $600 for wool/leather). The Hardwood Classics line has been expanded with new items such as the Majestic Hardwood Classics Satin Jackets ($84.99). The line of Majestic Hardwood Classics Shooting Shirts ($64.99) has grown to 12 teams from seven in the spring.


Choong expects the catalog to produce a 2.5 percent response rate, following the spring's 2.09 percent rate. Page count stays at 24 as in the spring edition.


She said 30 percent of the new book's sales are to come via NBA.com while 40 percent should come by phone.


The catalog's total per-piece cost, including postage, remained at just over 50 cents.


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