SendAmerica Seeks Sales Boost, Adds Catalog

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SendAmerica has gone beyond the Internet as its only sales channel, sending a catalog just in time for the holidays.


The 2-year-old wholly owned subsidiary of The Vermont Teddy Bear Co. aims to benefit from its moderately priced selection of 170 items in the 32-page book that measures 8 by 8 inches and weighs less than 3 ounces.


"Sometimes a downturn can create opportunities," said Spencer Newman, director of SendAmerica, Shelburne, VT. "We're not selling gifts for $300 or $400. Most of our products are under $100, and the sweet spot is about $65, which is the average price of our products. Maybe 10 percent of our products are over $100. Our chocolate ginger cookies on page 7 would be the lowest-priced item at $18."


SendAmerica's only previous sales channel was www.sendamerica.com, which gets traffic from a link on Vermont Teddy Bear's site.


Newman identified Vermont Teddy Bear as a gift company, not a toy company, and described it as providing "an alternative to flowers" that markets "American-made teddy bears." SendAmerica's main theme is U.S.-made crafts.


"It's clear that there's been an upsurge in patriotism," he said, "and our catalog includes crafts made by local artisans throughout the country, and if you're looking for products that express a pride in America, that's what you would buy. There's certainly the potential for [patriotism] to be beneficial for the catalog."


Three such artisans are profiled on pages 4, 20 and 26.


The catalog was being planned in July with a mail date of Oct. 23, plus a second drop mailing Nov. 2. The in-home dates were Oct. 30 and Nov. 9. The circulation of 300,000 was split evenly over the two drops.


"The mail was slow going out because of the anthrax scare, which resulted in a slower delivery, and that will squeeze sales into a shorter period of time," Newman said. "We were concerned on Sept. 11 about being perceived as having taken advantage of the situation, so we put 'since 1999' on the cover so people would know the company has been around for two years."


Also on the cover, in the lower-right corner, were the words "Save 10% Details Inside." On the page 17 order form, consumers learn that the savings apply to those who order online through the end of the year and enter a code at checkout.


"The offer is both in response to the economy and a way to encourage people to order online since such orders are less costly to process," Newman said. "But I think somebody will buy from us regardless of the discount, be it 10 [percent] or 20 percent.


"Eighty percent of the items we have are very difficult to find outside of the artisans' local areas, and 95 percent would be very difficult to find in any other catalog."


Catalog recipients learn on page 2 that they can receive a free, personalized gift card with every SendAmerica gift.


"Part of it stems from Vermont Teddy Bear, since each bear comes with a personalized gift card, and we wanted to carry that concept over to SendAmerica, where customer service people edit the cards for spelling and grammar with a limit of 200 characters," he said. "There's also a paragraph about the artisan that is printed on the personalized card that goes with the items they created."


SendAmerica's target market is about 75 percent female, mainly ages 35-55, with household incomes of $50,000 to $100,000.


"We're looking for mid- to upper-income women who buy mid-ticket gifts," he said. "Vermont Teddy Bear is a male-focused product. They are selling bears at Valentine's Day to men who will give them as gifts. We are looking at female buyers who we believe will be more likely to be repeat customers, whereas the males are more likely to buy once a year."


About 20 percent of the circulation went to Vermont Teddy Bear's best buyers, while the rest targeted prospects obtained from more than 30 lists.


"We tried to cast a wide net with our first mailing since this is a new concept," Newman said. "We mailed to those with a propensity to buy gifts priced around $75, and to buy often."


With the catalog addition, the Web site and phone orders each are expected to generate a little less than 50 percent of SendAmerica's sales, while regular mail, e-mail and fax orders should be negligible. Infrastructure is leveraged through a call center shared with Vermont Teddy Bear.


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