Web Merchant Plans Catalog to Support Site

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Chaang Trading Co., which sells handcrafted jewelry, clothing and pottery from Southeast Asia, expects to launch a sampler catalog next year to lure travel and adventure lovers to its Web site.


Chaang president Tom Wescott has not decided on the catalog's size, drop dates or other production issues, but he does know that the Web site will remain the primary selling vehicle.


"The bulk of our things can only be [sold] online because the online [store] enables us to adapt to changing stock," he said. "A fixed catalog doesn't allow that adaptability. All of our things are made in limited lots."


Wescott visits Myanmar (formerly Burma), Cambodia and Thailand two to four times a year to select and buy products for the business. He worked as an anesthesiologist before launching Chaang, which is derived from the Thai word for elephant, in May 2000.


The company's direct mail efforts so far have involved postcards and letters. A three-part postcard series was mailed to 12,000 prospects last month. Postcards were selected "to catch [their] eye even if they don't open an envelope," Wescott said.


The decision to mail postcards was made before the nation's anxiety regarding letters tainted with anthrax.


"We were fortunate ... that postcards became an even more important consideration," he said.


The postcards' design is simple, displaying the company's elephant logo. The cards offer no images of products found on the site, though copy is designed to pique recipients' interest with phrases such as "forbidden pleasures," "conversation pieces" and "impress your friends." The only response mechanism is the Web site address. Manifesto Ad, Rockford, IL, designed the postcards.


Chaang also sends 8,000 to 15,000 letters per quarter to customers and qualified leads. Wescott said the company expects to mail at least 30,000 pieces in the first quarter next year.


Though Chaang initially mailed to baby boomers, "we've given up on that," he said. "We tried [mailing] according to demographic targets and had poor results. For us, what's more important is a psychographic. [We're] trying to target people who are worldly, innovative, artistic."


The company's average order size is $90. Products include silver fabric purses ranging from $180 to $390, lacquer vases from $20 to $190 and jade pendants from $120 to $1,050.


Chaang, which is run by a staff of four, advertises in magazines such as Smithsonian, Conde Nast Traveler, House Beautiful, House and Garden and Elle Decor, as well as in trade publications in the design and furnishings industry.


The merchant, which handles fulfillment inhouse, e-mails to as few as 500 and as many as 20,000 customers every three to four weeks, mostly with new product announcements and special offers.


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