Popcorn Factory Sees Order Size Increase

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After seeing its average order size fall below estimates for much of the year, The Popcorn Factory's Holiday 2001 consumer catalog had an average order size of $61, higher than the $58 for the 2000 holiday season.


"We're also seeing more items per order this year," said Cheryl Zatz, director of marketing at The Popcorn Factory, Lake Forest, IL. "Consumers are spending less per item, but items per order are up. All year our average order amount has been slightly down from plan, so this holiday season it's very good to see that the average order amount is up ... About 80 percent of our consumer sales are done between August and December."


Changes in this year's holiday books include a smaller type size, to 12-point, down from 13-point last year, in order to increase the size of product shots. Also new this year is the use of a seven-sided star along with the word "New!" to identify these items.


"One of the other things we tried this year was taking a snowman design that we developed and we used it on ceramic plates and mugs that have sold very well for us," Zatz said. "We also have a Menorah Cookie Kit that is selling very well."


The consumer book's products include a $200 Sleigh Basket as well as Butter Pecan Cookies ($9.95).


"The higher-priced items are not selling as well this season," she said. "As far as the response rate is concerned for the holidays, we'll probably come in just below plan and finish below last year's level."


Three-fourths of the consumer holiday books went to The Popcorn Factory's house file, a slight increase from previous years. Prospect lists came primarily from gift-oriented lists since most of the items in the book are purchased as gifts.


"We reduced the acquisition amount compared to last year due to the increase in postal rates," Zatz said. "The percentage drop in circulation compared to last year on the consumer side was single digits. As we get closer to Christmas, we increase our house file circulation, so that offset some of the decreased acquisition circulation, which we obtain from probably around 100 lists.


"On the consumer side, three-quarters of our house list is female, concentrated between the ages of 35 and 54. The majority of the house file earns more than $50,000 annually."


The consumer Holiday 2001 book was produced using five different covers and the books were essentially identical with the exception of the first several pages. They dropped between August and the end of November.


The company mails corporate and consumer catalogs throughout the year, with the holiday versions of both running 40 and 48 pages respectively.


"We don't offer as many decorative novelty items in the Corporate book," she said. "For that we focus more on gifts that can be shared at the office."


While she would not give the circulation of each Holiday book, Zatz said the combined circulation of both was more than 10 million. The consumer catalog has a larger circulation and produced 60 percent of sales during the holiday season while the Corporate Gifts book accounted for 40 percent.


The firm's Web site has accounted for 25 percent of catalog business during the holiday season, up from 19 percent last year.


"Customers also e-mail their orders, which we include in our Internet percentage," she said. "We've seen a larger percentage of people e-mailing us their orders. A lot of our customers send us multiple ship-tos with multiple addresses on a word document attached to the e-mail."


Also new for this year's books was a map on the back cover that provided order deadlines for delivery by Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year's Day based on the recipient's location. Dates for express and overnight delivery also were included. Thanksgiving dates were included for consumer Holiday books that dropped before Thanksgiving.


"The main reason for adding the map and the other shipping information on the back cover was that it allowed people from different regions to see when they could order while being charged for standard delivery," Zatz said.


Quad Graphics, Hartford, WI, printed the books.


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