Scholastic Eyes Shorter Lead Times After Patriotic Catalog

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Scholastic Inc. is considering shorter lead times to respond to special events after a catalog brought out less than a month after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks resulted in orders from 84,000 classrooms and $3 million in sales.


Called United We Stand, the catalog celebrates the United States and the power of reading. It dropped the first week of October to 500,000 teachers, taking less than a month from conception and list creation to production and delivery. The publisher also dropped a free, specially created "The Pledge of Allegiance" book to 500,000 teachers for classroom use less than 10 days after Sept. 11.


"This is a business that historically plans long in advance, with long lead times," said Judy Newman, senior vice president of book clubs at Scholastic, New York. "We're working right now on the September, October and November catalogs. We're dealing with over 1 million teachers representing 20 children, on average, per classroom. It's this massive machine that has a huge lead time.


"Now that we know that we have the capability and resources needed to create a catalog so quickly, and that teachers will be receptive to it, we can see doing this again from time to time when there is a particular need or situation that we can help to address. The experience of United We Stand has opened up new possibilities for us that we will continue to explore."


The United We Stand catalog, bearing the flag's red, white and blue colors on the cover, listed about 85 books and book packs. Paper size and newsprint quality were the same as those sported by the 150 catalogs that Scholastic drops 10 times during the September to June academic year.


"Teachers really needed resources to help start a constructive dialogue with their students about what happened on Sept. 11," Newman said. "Teachers especially in the Midwest and other states far from New York and DC were looking for ways to help kids understand and cope."


Ten percent of sales went to the American Red Cross Liberty Disaster Relief Fund.


"I think it allows the individual children in all the classrooms in the country to make a contribution directly to the relief effort," Newman said. "It was very empowering for them."


The titles for grades K-6 were listed under categories including "The land we love," "From sea to shining sea," "A time to share our feelings," "Home of the brave" and "Heroes in history."


Newman would not say whether United We Stand exceeded expectations or how it compared with the company's regular mailings throughout the school year. Nor would she disclose its production and mailing cost.


Producing the catalog at the start of the school year held an additional challenge.


"We had very little time to decide which teachers received the catalog, and it was the beginning of the school year," Newman said. "We made every effort to reach as many teachers as possible, taking our most up-to-date order lists and working with our database analysts. The total list for the mailing came to half a million teachers. It didn't matter whether a teacher had a $5 order or $500 order, the goal was to reach as many classrooms as we could, as quickly as we could. Everybody got it."


Newman said Scholastic got calls from teachers who wished that they had gotten the catalog.


"We're contemplating whether we can send it out again, if it makes sense for teachers and kids, if they need it," she said.


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