The accent was on unique home décor items in the premier issue of Accentuals catalog, launched in July by startup Direct Commodities. A holiday supplement mails at the start of November.
Product selection in the catalog and a companion Web site, accentuals.com, includes baskets, candle holders, lighting, outdoor accessories, pillows and throws and wall décor, about one-quarter of which is made in the United States, said Thomas Schroeder, president of Direct Commodities, Ambridge, PA.
Prices range from $6 to more than $400, but most of the sales are for items between $40 and $60, he said.
“We're targeting the middle market because we feel it is ignored with unique, quality products at good prices,” Schroeder said, noting that many items in the catalog are not readily available at retail.
Best sellers include cast-iron items and clocks.
Along with its product selection, Accentuals hopes to set itself apart from the competition in home décor by inventorying most of the merchandise in its own warehouse. This lets the company ship 99 percent of orders within 24 hours, Schroeder said.
“We're not highly dependent on drop shipping, nor do we have the typical four- to six-week delivery delay that you usually see in the industry,” he said. This benefit is expected to help Accentuals build customer loyalty.
Another way in which Accentuals wants to differ is by including in the catalog and on the Web site complete product descriptions that mention not only what a product is made of, but also its dimensions.
“This is something that is lacking in the industry,” Schroeder said.
The first issue contained 32 pages and featured about 140 items. It measured 8 1/2-by-11 inches. Accentuals.com, which launched over the July 4 weekend, stocks 230 items. The book mailed to 25,000 names on the East Coast in July and another 25,000 names, also on the East Coast, in September.
The first test run “was disappointing,” Schroeder said. He attributed the poor results to timing, with many people on vacation in July, and a lack of brand recognition.
Though the September test “was much better received,” the company plans to invest in building awareness for Accentuals this fall, he said. Brand-building strategies will include a newspaper insert program Nov. 7 and a TV commercial that will air in Pennsylvania.
Results indicate that the market for Accentuals is in eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York, so the company will concentrate on these areas.
The 12-page holiday supplement will not focus specifically on holiday products, but will contain a few holiday-themed items. It will measure 6-by-9 inches. The print run will be 5,000 to 10,000 copies, with 30 percent mailing to the house file and the rest to prospects.
The next issue will be a spring catalog, which Schroeder said will mail in the late winter or early spring.
Direct Commodities' business plan calls for adding custom manufacturing to Accentuals' product mix, something Schroeder expects to happen within three years.