No-Frills Mailer Is Right Recipe to Reach Gourmet Shops

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A new product line introduced this year along with impressive sales for some items added last year are driving a 20 percent rise in the average order for a mailer promoting Pemberton's Gourmet Foods' 2003 products.


Though the piece is called "Pemberton's Gourmet Foods 2003 Wholesale Catalog," recipients can immediately recognize the unusual format that allows for an odd number of pages -- 11.


A combination order form and price list wraps around the piece, which measures 8.5 by 11 inches and is held together by a single staple in a corner. All product lines receive one page of exposure, except for "Pemberton's Nomad Apiaries -- Honey," which is mentioned only on the order form/price list.


"When we started doing this we wanted to present the products in a professional and enticing way," owner Jeffrey S. Johnson said. "With a standard catalog, your photos will go down in size. The 8.5-by-11-inch photos of the product lines make it easy for customers to flip through. Also, the wraparound can be cut up and faxed in.


"Doing it this way was more economical and is in line with our budget. In a sense it's no frills, but it presents products properly and it's easy for customers to use."


The per-piece cost of the book is $2.50, split evenly between First-Class postage and production.


"I think our customers like the fact that we didn't spend a lot on it, and, as a result, we can offer competitive prices," Johnson said. "If we had to boost the wholesale prices in order to pay more for the piece, it would become an issue. People need to get the most competitive margin at retail. If it's doing the job, don't change it. In the future, if we want to enhance our image through the catalog, we may look at doing a standard version of the catalog."


Just over 1,500 copies were printed. The company's 50 largest customers received it just after printing in February, 600 were sent to requesters and another 600 were distributed at trade shows or through commissioned sales representatives calling on prospective customers.


A 10 percent response rate has been realized from the requesters while the other 600 that were directly distributed have generated an 80 percent response. All 50 of the top companies doing business with Pemberton's have purchased merchandise and have accounted for sales above the overall average order generated by the catalog.


The number of books printed last year was 20 percent below this year's total.


"For the gourmet shops, the slower season is January, February and March," he said. "People begin to make decisions in March on items to be brought in for the spring, so we time our mailing to when decisions will be made. They like to have this information at the start of the year when they might even start thinking about holidays."


Successful items include A Maine Harvest, a line of gourmet zucchini relishes introduced this year at $43.20 per case; and three products introduced last year: Tuscan Olive Pesto at $49.80 per case, Caribbean Mango salsa at $42 per case and Pemberton's Death by Chocolate Original at $42.60 per case.


These items have helped boost the average order to between $300 and $400.


"With A Maine Harvest we're seeing the upscale gourmet food shops that account for 90 percent of our business responding well to the Pemberton's brand," Johnson said, "and with the three hot-selling products that were introduced last year, we're seeing the fruition of that introduction this year. We expected them to be hot based on past performance."


People are getting more adventuresome with salsas, he said, and they are "into things where they can open up the jar and use the product immediately." He added that pestos are growing more varied and creative. He expects to get orders from 500 to 700 retailers nationwide who "have been willing to reinvest in those products this year."


The minimum purchase is $250 for first-time orders and $150 on reorders. The average per-case cost of items offered is $35 to $40, up 3 percent from last year.


Pembertonsgourmet.com just became e-commerce-enabled, but is only expected to generate about 5 percent of the company's sales a year from now. Orders faxed in account for about 40 percent of sales while the toll-free number generates about 30 percent and the other 30 percent comes from visits made by independent sales representatives.


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