Carol's etc. is proving the adage that affordable home items fare well in a poor economy as numbers for its fall/winter 2002 Carol's etc. catalog are up versus last year.
“Our customers create items you would see at craft shows for sale in the local community,” said Jeremy Boyce, president of the Minot, ND, direct marketer of craft pattern designs and supplies. “When there is a down economy, more individuals create revenue for themselves in their own households.”
More than 400 photographs of finished crafts appear in the fall/winter 2002 catalog, but Carol's doesn't sell items as they appear in the book, not even the raw materials. Instead, it sells pattern designs, descriptions of how to create the crafts and lists of materials needed. The average price of items in the book is $7.50, up 25 cents from the fall/winter 2001 catalog.
Circulation for the fall/winter 2002 book rose to 138,000 from 129,000 last year.
“We worked with a few of our suppliers to get names from them,” Boyce said. “We try not to use lists from other companies since we have such a close-knit market. We work with over 150 suppliers, and it is much more profitable to use their lists. The suppliers have their own retailing operations. Renting to obtain a list of craft enthusiasts is too broad.”
Supplier-provided names accounted for the 9,000 increase in circulation as the rest of the mailing went to the house file. Last year's circulation included 124,000 house file recipients and 5,000 from supplier-provided names and some obtained from Abacus.
“But that wasn't as profitable,” he said of the Abacus names.
The target demographic is 97 percent female with an average household income of $55,000 and age range of 35 to 58.
The current book was mailed in July.
“Customers need time to think about what they want to create, and then they need time to make their items for the holidays,” he said.
The current book averages $38 per order and just over five items per order. Last year's book averaged $34 per order and just under five items per order. The response rate is 7 percent, up from 5 percent last year.
“Better product selection for the catalog this year was the key to the increases,” Boyce said, “and the performance of the front cover offer far exceeded the $7.70 cover item we had last year.”
The page count, 48, and digest-size format remain unchanged.
“It's a format that makes it easy for customers to take it with them to local craft stores,” he said. “Inside the book we have to be careful with the size of the photos. We can't make them too big where they could figure out how to create them without the sale of our product design, and you can't make them too small to the point where they would not be attracted to them.”
Carol's usually packs nine items per page, each including a photo, one sentence description, item number and price.
“We usually try to replace 50 percent of the product each year,” he said. “A lot of our customers are looking for the new, hot stuff. If the product in the catalog became stagnant, there would be no need for them to buy the same patterns a second time, and no need to order from us on an ongoing basis. We usually have 450 selections in each book, and that is unchanged from last year.”
The current book's hot items include the Warm & Cozy (back cover; $8.25) snowman and “Easy Does It for Christmas” ($18.70), a 28-page book with pattern designs, lists of materials needed and directions on how to create the crafts that appear on the catalog's front cover.
The company also produces a spring/summer catalog.
“It's difficult for customers to finish projects fast enough to accommodate a third catalog,” he said. “They can't sew fast enough.”
He described the book's recipients as “not computer literate.” Carolsetc.com has accounted for 8 percent of the current catalog's orders, while 50 percent come by mail and 40 percent by phone.