thehut.com Moves in on College Crowd

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Joining the catalogers that have recently recognized the purchasing power of young adults, Fingerhut Companies Inc., Minnetonka, MN, this month launched a new catalog aimed at 18- to 24-year-olds. While the others -- such as Just Nikki and Wet Seal, launched last year -- cater to the fashion-clothing whims of teen-agers, thehut.com seeks to set itself apart as one of the first general merchandise catalogs for young adults.


The company has dropped 700,000 copies of the new catalog, with 300,000 to existing customers and the rest to new ones. It expects many more copies of the catalog to be mailed, however, as it also has been distributing cards that announce the launch and invite prospects to call and request a catalog or visit the Web site with the same name.


With items from earrings, sneakers, T-shirts and leather jackets to shower curtains, stereos, video games and futons packing its 48 pages, thehut.com hopes to offer young adults many of the trendy must-have items they can't order from other catalogs. In addition to different merchandise, the catalog is skewed toward a slightly higher age group than most young adult catalogs.


"We wanted to reach young adults before they leave the home, before they furnish their first apartments or dorm rooms," said Fingerhut president William Lansing.


The amount of general merchandise that college students buy and the uncrowded catalog market, combined with several other factors, convinced the company the college-age group was a strong audience to target, said Sara Saferstein, head of thehut.com business team.


"Many of these types of catalogs are young and feminine. We wanted to tap into the college-aged group because we felt there was a void in the college market and we thought you could get younger customers with an older book, but you probably wouldn't get college students with a book for younger teens," she said. "Also, Fingerhut gives credit to its customers -- and you can't give credit to people younger than 18."


Indeed, in keeping with the Fingerhut tradition, customers may pay for most items on credit, with the exception of some low-priced items such as costume jewelry. Customers who accept the offer to pay on credit by opening a Fingerhut Credit Advantage Card get a free clock with their order.


The company conducted focus groups to decide what merchandise and what creative look and tone would best fit the age group. As a result, the catalog has a bright, colorful look and features young models in action poses. Unlike other college-aged catalogs -- such as Abercrombie & Fitch's A&F Quarterly -- the copy doesn't cater to the age group.


"We found that with this age group, it's either right or it's really wrong," Saferstein said about the decision not to use popular expressions among young people. "We decided we'd rather be straightforward than wrong."


The company plans to turn the catalog into a six-times-a-year book and has scheduled its next mailing for November.


Separately, Fingerhut received formal written approval from the Internal Revenue Service last week to complete a tax-free spinoff of its 83 percent interest in Metris Companies. The Fingerhut board of directors has set Sept. 11 as the record date and Sept. 25 as the distribution date for the spinoff.


Metris, St. Louis Park, MN, is an information-based direct marketer of consumer credit-card products, extended service plans and fee-based products and services.
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