Smithsonian Strikes Gold With Jewelry

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A greater presence for jewelry in The Smithsonian Catalogue's summer book has placed early results within striking distance of what was achieved a year ago.


"We increased the amount of jewelry in the catalog since it has been consistently a strong performer for us in the past year and it has consistently outperformed the amount of space we give it," said Tom Holzfeind, catalog director at The Smithsonian Catalogue, Washington.


With year-over-year page count (64) and item total (about 235) staying consistent, the change has resulted in less space for bed and tabletop products.


Jewelry's strength is evidenced in the book's big sellers, which include Majestic 14k and Lapis Jewelry, and the 14k Lavender Jade Jewelry featured on the cover of the first drop. In apparel, the Chinese Floral Yukata ($65, or $58.50 for members) is also selling well.


The summer book's other strong product categories have been women's apparel, gifts, decorative accessories and home furnishings.


The Smithsonian Catalogue's customers are 75 percent female with an average annual household income of $75,000+ and an average age of 60+.


Two of the three drops for the summer book have reached consumers yielding an average order of $98. With orders still coming in from the first two mailings and the final drop hitting the mail last week, Holzfeind is confident the average order will reach plan of $101. Last year's amount was about $100.


The first drop came March 24 with the Lavender Jade Jewelry cover, followed April 9 with a Plique-A-Jour Bowl cover. The cover for the April 30 drop featured a Hummingbird Perfume Bottle.


"The summer book represents the slowest time of the year," he said, "and has the smallest mailing of the year, going to 2.5 million people compared to 8 million who we mail to during the holidays." Overall annual circulation is 19 million.


Prospecting took place mainly in the first drop with the other two focusing on "best customers."


The 2.5 million books were split among about 60 percent buyers on the house file; 20 percent "institution names," described as Smithsonian members who have not bought from the catalog; and 20 percent prospects obtained from "typical outside rental lists."


This year's prospecting strategy mirrored last year's as about 10 lists were used. They contained other female catalog purchasers of gifts, jewelry and women's apparel with an average of $100 purchases made in the past six to 12 months.


"This is a very tight mailing," Holzfeind said. "We're not stepping out on a limb with this book with the economy being soft. You don't take many chances with this book in any year, especially this year, so it's a very conservative approach. Summer represents the smallest circulation of all four mailings throughout the year."


The book's unique pricing structure was credited for much of its success as Smithsonian members receive a 10 percent discount on all items as each selection contains the regular and discounted member prices.


"This increases the likelihood of membership," he said. "About two-thirds of our orders are members' orders." U.S. membership is priced at $29.


The average item price is $60, about the same as last year, not including the 10 percent member discount.


Smithsoniancatalogue.org represents about 15 percent of orders while phone orders account for about 70 percent and mailed-in orders represent another 15 percent. The site began operations in October. Average order amounts are slightly higher on the Web with averages around $95 (phone and mail) and $105 (Web) coming in.


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