Swimwear Cataloger Trims Page Count, Not Order Size

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Spring may be only a week old, but the producers of the Carabella Collection catalogs are looking to heat up swimsuit sales long before summer arrives.


Increases of nearly 30 percent in house file and prospect mailings compared with a year ago have helped the Carabella's Spring 2002 Fashion Preview catalogs produce a $1 rise in average order amount.


The spring books that mailed in January included a 52-page prospect catalog with a circulation of 800,000 and a 76-page house file book, which had a circulation of 570,000, up from 444,000 last year.


Prospecting included names from about 30 lists, unchanged from last year.


Page counts were cut 10 percent for the house file catalog and 7 percent for the prospect book because of uncertainty about the economy.


"Even with the lower page count, we still have a 3 percent increase in revenue," said Houshang Jalili, president of Carabella Corp., Irvine, CA. "So the economy is not as bad as everyone keeps saying it is.


"The average order amount has been $116 overall for both books with an average of about 2.7 units per order. That's almost the same as last year when we saw a $115 average order and the same 2.7 units per order. Regardless of what's happening in the economy, the average woman is still going to need a swimsuit."


The house file catalog had 440 items, down from 480 last year, and the prospect book had 350 items, down from 380. Swimsuits are not the only items, as hot pants, casual clothing, jewelry, eveningwear, footwear and summer knits also are in the house file book. Much of this merchandise is also found in the prospect catalog.


The average annual household income of Carabella Collection consumers is about $70,000, with most buyers ages 25 to 35. Jalili placed the complete age range of purchasers from 16 to 50.


The books' hottest seller so far has been the Heat Wave two-piece swimsuit.


"D cup sizes available" is mentioned on many items in the catalog.


"We can offer women the D cups they might not get on items found in stores or other mail-order catalogs," Jalili said.


Certain products use photos of both front and rear views of an item.


"This reduces the amount of customer service calls because this gives the customer the front and rear view of the suits," he said. "With some suits you need that additional information, so we try to give that information to help customers make up their mind."


The house file book includes two pages of plus-size swimsuits.


"We introduced the plus sizes three years ago, and we had a great deal of demand," he said. "Surveys showed that the average size that used to be 10 is now 12 for women. Tummy control is offered because ... most women have a little tummy they would like to hide after having a kid or two, without compromising on the look of the suit."


Jalili's gross revenue per book projections for the current catalogs are in line with results obtained last spring: $1 for the prospect catalogs and $5.42 for the books to the house file.


Last year, 75 percent of orders came by phone, 15 percent by mail and 8 percent through Carabella's Web site.


"The only change this year would be the Internet channel, which will increase," Jalili said. "We are projecting double digits in terms of our percentage of sales coming from the Web site while the mail side keeps dropping."


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