Sure Fit Ads Expand House File, Catalog Circulation

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A $10 million print and television advertising campaign by Sure Fit Inc. has helped the company nearly double the circulation of its fall catalog compared with last year and raise its average order amount almost 10 percent.


"Most of our print ads appear in women's publications, and our TV advertising is mostly on cable," said Liana Toscanini, vice president at Sure Fit Inc., New York, a direct marketer of slipcovers. "We do not buy lists, so we mail 100 percent house file consisting of past buyers and people who request catalogs.


"We have a product that many people don't know exists, and there is a backed-up demand for it. Ready-made slipcovers are viewed as the plastic things my grandmother had, so when people see modern, contemporary slipcovers, the phone rings off the hook. We're going after low-hanging fruit."


Spring and summer circulation for the Sure Fit Slipcovers by Mail catalog increased to 2.6 million and 4 million, respectively, from 1.5 million for each season last year. Fall circulation is 4.3 million, up from 2.2 million last year, while holiday numbers are projected to rise from last year's 2.4 million to 5 million.


The book's primary audience is women ages 25 to 55 in households with average annual incomes of about $60,000, though the TV ads have broadened its customer base.


"We are gaining male customers, with 13 percent of our customers being male, up from 5 percent two years ago," Toscanini said. "TV was given a full rollout this year and is reaching a wider audience, a younger audience and a more male audience."


Last year the company spent $4.6 million for print and a $1.4 million test in the TV sector. This year's $10 million in spending was split evenly between print and TV.


Page count has expanded from last fall's 36 to 44 this year with the order form returned to the book after not appearing last year.


"[The order form is] being used for fit and styling information as well as product information," she said. "It's education-intensive, and enough people are ordering by mail to pay for putting it back into the book."


Product lines expanded to coincide with the added pages include dining room chair covers and wing back furniture covers.


"They were there in a minimal way last fall," she said. "Expanding those product lines is paying off big time because we're giving previous customers a reason to buy again."


Three drops were used for the fall book in late July.


The average order was $143 a year ago while the fall 2002 catalog is producing a $155 average. Though Toscanini would not divulge response rates, she said they "have been steady for a year and a half."


About 40 percent of the book's sales come online at surefit.com, up from 35 percent last year.


"This is an information-heavy product, and everything you ever wanted to know about our slipcovers can be found on our Web site," she said.


Switching this year from in-house production of the book to using AGA Marketing & Design, New York, lowered production costs. Savings have been realized on photography, the use of digital art as well as on paper due to the increased circulation.


Creative changes from last year included more spreads to highlight the product assortment and focusing on the slipcovers within a lifestyle environment.


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