Response Grows for Garden Botanika as Direct Sales Take Root

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Garden Botanika is reaping stronger response in its direct sales channel as the company shifts from being a retailer to being a direct marketer.


Garden Botanika, which sells botanically based skin and beauty products priced from $9 to $20, produced a response rate to its 24-page June "Semi Annual Stock Up Sale" book that was more than double the rate of a year ago, while the average order size increased by $10. The book's circulation was 300,000.


"The biggest change ... is that now we are entirely focused on our direct sales channels," said Mary Allison, general manager of Garden Botanika, Redmond, WA. "Previously, the catalog was used primarily as a sales generator for the more than 200 retail stores."


Allison declined to specify the exact response rate and order size.


The retail stores closed in waves over the past two years, with the last one shut in May.


"Sales per square foot never met the profitability line as a total chain," she said.


Schroeder & Tremayne, St. Louis, bought the company -- which had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection -- at the end of February and took over operations March 15.


"It was [determined] that that was the strongest way to keep the brand alive in the short term," Allison said. "It was due to [Schroeder & Tremayne's] read on the numbers.


"Our entire customer base is almost 3 million 0- to 24-month customers, which in large measure represented the retail customer base," she said. "Our primary customer acquisition focus is on converting the Garden Botanika retail customer to a Garden Botanika catalog and/or Internet customer."


Sales are running 60 percent to 40 percent in favor of the catalog channel versus the Internet.


Garden Botanika's cost is 50 to 65 cents to produce a 32-page catalog, including creative, photography, postage, paper and printing as well as data processing.


Circulation last year was about 800,000, divided into six drops. The January catalog was the last one produced before the sale.


The current-year plan is for a circulation of 2.1 million with seven drops.


"We're going deeper into our retail customer file," Allison said of the company's target audience, women ages 34-55. "The first catalog [produced since the sale] was a small, 12-panel version in April that was a selling tool and also let customers know that we were still here. Last year, we tried different sizes, including more abbreviated postcard three-panel catalogs, but we're going back to our standard size of 24- to 32-page mailings.


"Historically, we know that the more pages we provide, the larger our average order size is," she said. "Schroeder & Tremayne is willing to invest to convert these customers because of their lifetime value and the ongoing relationship we want to have with them. We're not running a sprint. We're running a marathon."


Circulation will total 450,000 for the next drop, which will be in homes Sept. 6. The book will be 28 pages.


"We're looking at the base line of recency, frequency and monetary," Allison said. "We're working with Experian and segmenting out retail customers who have bought from other catalogers within the Experian catalog database to convert those retail customers who have shown a propensity to buy from a catalog."


Another change to be realized next month will be the use of Haggin Marketing, San Francisco, for the catalog's creative. Item count will remain consistent around 400 SKUs.


"We're re-emphasizing the botanical basis of our brand and the benefits that they provide within our product line," Allison said. "The primary feature will be our fall cosmetics. Our main promotional vehicle will be 'Choose Your Own Color' in which we offer customers a choice of six cosmetics, plus a free mini-shadow primer and a free polka dot cosmetic bag. Our next drop will be in October with a circulation of 250,000 and will feature a free spa gift with every purchase."


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