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AV Book Boosts Pages for Product Rollout

National Audio-Visual Supply, a cataloger of training products for the educational, government and industry sectors, increased spending 4 percent on its Official Buying Guide this year to devote more space to a new line of products.

“Our customers want more than just AV equipment,” said Scott E. Heller, president of National Audio-Visual, Grafton, VT. “They want the table and chairs, and they're looking for us to furnish the room. The new products include tables specifically designed for teleconferencing as well as tables and chairs for training environments that can be configured multiple ways, and media cabinets and carts.”

The 2004 Buying Guide mailed just before Labor Day and continued with drops through late September. It contained 254 pages, up from 224 last year. Per-piece cost of this year's catalog was $1.35.

“We cut about 28 pages of poor-performing merchandise this year, including general office supplies and poor-performing products within other categories,” he said. “We typically add 350 to 500 new products in a given year, but this year it was about 1,000. It was a combination of typical new product introductions plus an expansion of our house-branded product.”

About half of the catalog's new items are part of the new presentation and media furniture product line.

“We used to have bits and pieces of things and we previously carried a limited line of furniture, such as lecterns, but our customers have looked to us as a specialized resource, so it was a logical extension,” Heller said. “It made sense to extend the franchise, but we made a decision to limit the product offering to items that could be used for meeting and presentation rooms. We're not selling general office products and general office furniture.”

The 2004 cover announces new presentation and training furniture occupying 34 pages. The cover design also focused on the new line. While the 2003 book's cover image was an audio teleconferencing device, the 2004 catalog featured a main photo of a meeting room containing a table, chairs and an overhead projector, and three smaller photos of people using presentation products in meetings.

The increase in cost to produce the catalog encompassed a slight year-over-year rise in circulation of 4 percent to just under 1 million.

“It was based on our desire to drill deeper into our house file,” Heller said. “We're going deeper because three-quarters of our customers have bought from us more than once.”

Unchanged from last year is the strategy of mailing 75 percent of the books to prospects.

The company developed a private prospecting database about three years ago in conjunction with Edith Roman Associates, Pearl River, NY.

“It helps us suppress marginal names in files that are strong, and it makes marginal prospecting files more productive,” said Heller, who added that his company also works with Market Data Retrieval, Shelton, CT, in obtaining prospect names specific to the educational field.

The added cost was kept in check, he said, by favorable printing conditions.

“We were able to do this because of the laws of supply and demand,” he said. “The paper and printing market was very tight. It's a low-risk test to see how the category performs for us.”

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