Shifting Customer Base Prompts Cataloger's Name Change

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The New England Serum Co. is a name that no longer exists in the business-to-business catalog universe.


The company, founded nearly half a century ago to serve dairy farmers in New England, became PetEdge today to identify more closely with the customer base that has evolved over the years. Its fall 2002 catalog, set to arrive in early September, carries the new name and 16 pages more than the most recent books.


"The new name is a lot easier to say," said Andy Katz, president of PetEdge, Topsfield, MA. "The [old] name spoke to the business we were in for many years. But over the years we became direct marketers to pet-care professionals, and the brand became known in that market. We are a national company, and we don't sell serums. We sell pet products. ... The traditional pet supply stores that are our customers are competing with Wal-Mart and other companies, and they need products that will give them an edge."


Katz said a name change had been on the company's agenda for several years. Focus groups and surveys were used to devise the new name.


The company's spring and summer catalogs totaled 168 pages while the new book will have 184 for the fall. A main growth driver in recent years, Katz said, was the expansion of the company's exclusive brands.


"Our customers don't have to worry that supermarkets or national chains will have them," he said. "Our exclusive products provide a great profit opportunity for our customers. Our position with these products is to take a relatively thinner margin and drive volume."


The growth in page count also results from the company's expansion of its exclusive brands, which include dog sweaters.


"Typically, a dealer would pay $8 to $10 for a dog sweater and resell it for $15 to $20," he said. "Our brand of clothing will be called Casual Canine, for which we're launching 15 new styles. Opening price points will be in the $2.99 to $3.99 range. Dealers can resell them for $7.99 if they choose. For the consumers who came in and said they will not spend $20 on a sweater for their dog, now it becomes an impulse item."


The fall book includes 20 Best Buy pages, a section Katz described as "one of the marquee sections of our catalog where people must ask, 'How can they sell this merchandise at this price?'" SKUs will rise from the 10,000 in the spring to 11,000.


Circulation for the five drops in the fall/holiday season will be 2 million to 4 million, producing a year-over-year increase of 10 percent with deeper penetration of the house file and some additional prospecting.


Average order amounts for previous catalogs have been $150 to $200.


"With the increased page count, we're conservatively projecting less than 5 percent growth in average order value," he said, "and we are hoping to see an approximate 10 percent increase over response rates produced a year ago."


Volume handled via various sales channels is not expected to shift from the current 80 percent phone and 20 percent Web. The company has 70 to 75 sales representatives on duty at its call center.


The mailing of the new catalog will coincide with the launch of a new site and toll-free number, petedge.com and 1-800-PetEdge. 1-800-NESERUM and neserum.com will continue to function.


The book's increased size and circulation will boost overall catalog expenditures 7 percent, for the first time raising the total per-piece cost above $1.


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