Windsor Vineyards Plans for Lower Response Rate

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Windsor Vineyards expected, and got, a lower response rate for its spring 2002 catalog -- 3 percent versus nearly 4 percent last year. But the wine cataloger took steps entering the spring season that cushioned the blow.


"I'm looking mainly at the economy as the reason for the change," said Donna M. Elias, executive vice president, marketing, at Windsor Vineyards, Windsor, CA. "We're in a down market. I was expecting it to happen, and we did other things to try to counteract that."


One change was an increase in the book's average price per item from $125 last spring to $130 to $135 this year. The average price per item is high because the wines are sold in collections and sets rather than as individual bottles. Four three-bottle gift sets of the Private Reserve Assortment, for example, cost $196.


"It protects our margins, and it allows us to bring in a better bottom line and cover cost increases we incur," she said.


Not surprisingly, the average order size rose as well -- reaching $200 to $235, compared with $175 to $190 a year ago.


"People are going to a higher-end product," Elias said. "I was expecting the higher order size due to the trends we saw. It just about evened out the lower response rate."


The company also lets customers personalize wine bottles at no charge to spur the giving of bottles as gifts for special occasions.


"We allow customers to personalize labels, and between 98 [percent] and 99 percent of our product goes out personalized," she said. "That's why the cover is focused on the label."


The spring 2002 cover shot shows a close-up of a bottle of Windsor Vineyards' Signature Series, with the label reading, "Bottled Especially For The New Graduate Congratulations! Chris."


"We also use lifestyle shots to show the product in use," Elias said. "We wanted something a bit more attractive than just using a wine bottle. We try to do our photography sessions with that in mind. I may take a lot of lifestyle shots in a session that I will utilize throughout the year so I can assign dollars to catalogs in seasons as I need."


She cited standard case lots as having been among the spring book's hottest items.


"A lot of our customers go to their case assortments and bring a bottle from their collection when they go to friends' homes," she said.


The Connoisseur Collection ($119 for the standard recyclable carton or $148 for the natural wood case), which contains 12 wines, sold well, as did Reds in Wood and Premiums in Wood ($45 for a single three-bottle gift or $180 for four three-bottle gifts).


About 60 percent of the catalog recipients are male, with most of the customers being homeowners ages 45 to 60. Another group includes those described as "singles in their 20s with discretionary income and no kids." Many consumers have annual incomes above $60,000 with many earning more than $100,000.


Similar to a year ago are the number of SKUs (slightly greater than 200), circulation (175,000, all of which are taken from the house file) and page count (32). One drop was used that was in homes no later than early April.


Spring, summer and holiday catalogs are produced during the year.


"We don't prospect with our catalog," Elias said. "Our catalog is rather overwhelming to use as a new business vehicle. But we do send it out on request."


The company's call center, staffed by about 10 representatives, accounted for 80 percent of spring catalog sales with online bringing in 14 percent. Online sales accounted for 10 percent last year.


Catalog expenses have remained relatively flat at 65 cents per piece compared with 64 cents a year ago.


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