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Basil Street Plans New Path for Pricing

The verdict is in for the Basil Street Gallery catalog's spring mailing cycle, and changes are in store because the catalog lowered its price point too much.

“We need to re-evaluate our pricing strategy and average order and see if we can make an adjustment upward in the fall season,” said Erik Martinez, director of marketing at Design Toscano Inc., Elk Grove Village, IL, which publishes the 5-year-old Basil Street Gallery catalog. “Overall, it's meeting our profit guidelines, but it's not as profitable as we planned. We don't want to go too much higher. Probably the right place is [an average order of] $140 to $145, and that means the average price point going up from the current $100 to between $120 and $125.”

The average price of items in Basil Street was lowered from the spring 2003 mailing period from $125-$130 to $100. The catalog features framed art, furniture, wall decor, statuary and art reproductions.

“We focused on improving response by introducing more lower-ticket items,” Martinez said. “We are seeing the offset in higher response, and it has helped us, especially in prospecting where we have seen a significant increase in the response rate.”

Though Martinez would only give the book's spring response rate as being less than 1 percent in both the current season and last spring, he reported a 5 percent increase in the year-over-year response rate. However, the average order dropped from $150 last spring to $130.

“Lowering the average price per item was not justified in terms of the offset from the slightly higher response rate, and that's a positioning thing,” he said. “Our covers are high-end and elegant with a higher-price feel. We're still working on conveying its elegance and style while being able to offer products and price ranges that customers can afford.”

Half of the merchandise this spring is new as the SKU total dropped from 270 to 250 to coincide with the decrease in pages from 56 to 52. This resulted in cost per piece falling from 52 cents to 50.

“Increasing the page count by four pages was an experiment last year, but it wasn't profitable, and we've gone back to the book's traditional size,” Martinez said. “There is no real dominant category, but we trimmed more this year from the framed art selection than we did from categories such as sculptures or decorative accessories. Framed art is a higher price point. We also introduced a few more art deco items.”

New merchandise has generated a mix of items doing well, while others are falling short of expectations. Winners include: the Ancient Tree of Life wall sculpture ($125), Column of the Maenads sculptural pedestal ($125) and a Trapezophoron Winged Lion Console Table ($249).

New items not selling as well as hoped include: The Woodpeckers of Carbon Hill decorative accessory ($35), the Creation of Adam sculptural frieze ($175) and an L'Elaine Tufted Ottoman ($175).

Still, much is unchanged for the catalog. Circulation for the most recent book was flat with the year-ago level of 1 million to 1.5 million. The spring season features three back and front cover changes for the winter, spring and summer versions. Drops occur in January, March and May. The first drop encompasses 40 percent of the volume while the second and third account for 30 percent each. Also constant is the mix between house file (45 percent) and prospects (55 percent).

The target audience is split evenly between men and women with average household income exceeding $75,000 and a 35-50 age range.

Martinez said the catalog has seen a 5 percentage-point increase in orders generated at www.basilstreet.com, which now accounts for 20 percent.

Along with a spring mailing cycle, Basil Street produces a fall catalog. One-half of the house file also receives the company's Design Toscano catalog.

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