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Anthropologie Doubles Circulation for Summer Book to 2.2 Million

Anthropologie, an eclectic apparel and home furnishings retailer and cataloger, instead of following the conservative trend of fellow catalogers, will nearly double the circulation of its summer catalog this year. Also, for the first time, it will produce the publication entirely inhouse.

The summer book will drop March 5 to about 1.2 million consumers, with a second wave of just under 1 million that ships April 5. It's almost a 50 percent increase over last year's summer mailing circulation of about 1.2 million. “We're seeing strong response to our mailings,” said Michael Robinson, managing director of catalog and Internet at Anthropologie, Philadelphia. “We're seeing our customer file growing rapidly, and there's still so much opportunity in the list market.”

Anthropologie's upscale, pricey products range from an embroidered cardigan sweater to a 100-year-old soda machine to a hand painted linen lampshade. “They're what we call 'found objects,' ” Robinson said. And each retail location also has its own character so that products store to store are not identical.

The 8-year-old company has expanded from one retail location in Wayne, PA, to 19 stores in the United States with at least five more slated to open this year, according to Robinson. The company broadened its focus to catalogs two years ago, and its recent Web site, www.anthropologie.com, is expected to get a new look later this year.

Typical of a young catalog operation, much of the summer mailing — 70 percent to 80 percent — will be sent to prospects. It's inhouse database has about 120,000 names. Lists will include other catalogs that are representative of an upscale female purchaser, which the cataloger will identify with its list manager, Mokrynski & Associates, in both its Aptos, CA, and Hackensack, NJ, offices. Some of the likely targets will be J. Crew, Sundance and Banana Republic. It also will continue to use cooperative databases and optimized lists through Abacus, Experian's Z-24 and Smartbase. “Every list opportunity we have we taken advantage of,” said Robinson. “We're also looking at doing some more segmentation.”

Its design has been handled by three successive outside agencies, which Robinson declined to name. “The cost of being out of house is very challenging, and managing [the process] is very challenging,” he said. “We've reallocated a fairly substantial amount of money, and it's now going directly to the cost of photography and models.” The summer book will feature more exotic locations than in the past, including the Caribbean and Australia.

The catalog's fulfillment was outsourced until last July, when the company brought the process inhouse with a staff that fluctuates between 20 and 40 employees. R.R. Donnelley in Old Saybrook, CT, handles printing.

Robinson is looking for a strong response to the upcoming mailing. “We're hoping for a long tail,” he said, describing an ideal of both a deluge of orders just after the mailing as well as steady orders continuing to come in the weeks that follow. This issue is particularly important for catalogers who mail seasonally. Anthropologie will mail five issues this year. Its next catalog, the fall issue, mails in July.

At a time when many catalogers are cutting back circulation, Anthropologie is making a fairly sizable jump in numbers. “When we start hitting a point where it's not yielding as much, we'll probably want to cut back in the growth,” said Robinson, although he doesn't foresee that problem near-term.

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