Wakeside Wades Into Catalogs But Leaves Mail Order at the Dock

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Like many retailers with a Web site, Wakeside LLC wants to know how to use catalogs to drive customers online. Unlike most, however, the wakeboard equipment, apparel and accessory merchant isn't including mail order as part of the equation.

Wakeside's first catalog mailed in April to 55,000 names. A second drop May 15 went to another 65,000 names. The 52-page book includes a URL address on every page for the appropriate category on display and a product code for every item that can be keyed in on the Web site. What it lacks is a mail-order form.

The mail-order form "is an old medium that we see phasing out," said John Hellweg, co-founder, president and marketing director of Wakeside, Portland, OR. Wakeside's Web site, on the other hand, offers real-time inventory and same-day shipping, making it "a high-powered order form," he continued.

Mr. Hellweg started the company four years ago with his father to meet the needs of the growing number of wakeboard enthusiasts. Wakeboarding is similar to water skiing in that it's down on the water and requires being attached to a speedboat. However, wakeboarders stand on a single board and launch themselves off the wake from the boat so they can do tricks.

Wakeside's target audience is male and female wakeboarders ages 18-24 who skew toward "the more professional side," Mr. Hellweg said.

Wakeside hopes the catalog brings back customers who haven't purchased recently while also helping gain new customers. The company worked with several rental lists on its first two drops, targeting boat owners.

"We consider ourselves an online retailer with a supplement print catalog," Mr. Hellweg said, and he sees the new venture as "a new school way of integrating the shopping experience."

The photos in the catalog were taken by Wakeside and include sports and lifestyle shots. Product categories include gear, apparel for girls and boys as well as boat accessories. Every product includes a short description and a product code that can be typed in on Wakeside's home page so the customer can be taken directly to that item. Prices in the catalog range from $20 all the way up to $2,500.

There are also 10 full-page product features showcasing individual products with photography and copy.

The product categories featured in the catalog mirror those on the Web site, and the book's overall look and feel were designed to integrate with the Web site, Mr. Hellweg said.

"The Web site is our shopping tool, and the catalog is more of a showcase to highlight products," he said.

The company has another brand, TruSnow, dedicated to snowboarding, for which it will launch a catalog in October. The concept will be the same and will focus on driving recipients to TruSnow's Web site, trusnow.com. That book will mail to about 30,000 names, Mr. Hellweg said.

Next year, the company expects to expand the number of Wakeside and TruSnow mailings. Mr. Hellweg wants eventually to make Wakeside a seasonal catalog with four issues a year.

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