Art Supply Catalog Hopes Revamped Look, New Name Will Boost Business

A revamped catalog and a new name could be the remedy Paper & Ink Arts needs to increase its customer database and boost sales.

The cataloger dropped 14,000 copies of its Art Essentials 2001 book Nov. 15. But unlike its previous catalogs, which used the name Gifts & Essentials for Calligraphers, the newest version features 20 color pages of gifts and art tools wrapped around 32 black-and-white pages that include art supplies and resources.

“There are a lot of things we offer that people could not appreciate in black and white, and word description wouldn't do enough justice,” said Brenda Broadbent, president of Paper & Ink Arts, Woodsboro, MD. “This catalog is a departure [from] what we did previously. We're hoping our customers will respond well to it, and hopefully it will attract new ones.”

The decision to depart from what was exclusively a black-and-white book came after a catalog consultant suggested earlier this year that the catalog and business name were not adequately representing the book's contents. Broadbent renamed the catalog and the business, replacing Paper & Ink Books with Paper & Ink Arts.

After noticing that catalog sales remained constant for a few years, Broadbent said she decided to implement the changes with the test drop of the recent catalog.

Applied Catalog Solutions, Enfield, NH, created Paper & Ink Arts' latest catalog. The catalog remains copy heavy and leaves little white space. Company president David Tibbetts said the reason behind this is that Paper & Ink Arts provides close to 1,000 items and had only 52 pages in which to include them.

The color pages feature a variety of gifts, including clothing, specialty pens and decorative paper products.

From its database of 10,000, Paper & Ink Arts sent 7,000 catalogs, while the remaining 7,000 were mailed to people who appeared on a list Broadbent rented from art magazine Letter Arts Review. The company plans to rent more lists as part of a plan to expand its database.

The cost to produce the books has tripled, Broadbent said. Previous catalogs cost less than $1 each to produce, while the new book cost $3.05. Broadbent did not provide specifics regarding the rate of return needed to make the campaign effective. But she said that if sales triple, she would consider it a success.

The target audience is people who enjoy calligraphy, professional artists and those who do calligraphy as a hobby. In previous catalogs, the average order was $55. Broadbent said early results include an average order of $80.

Broadbent said Paper & Ink Arts wants to expand its art supply offerings beyond calligraphy.

“People have relied on us for years for tools and materials for lettering art and bookbinding, and that's the core audience I mail to,” Broadbent said. “Once we have the results of this catalog mailing, we will be able to determine whether their buying habits have changed and where we need to expand.”

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