LONDON – Catalog City plans a “soft” launch of its first three European Web sites – the UK, Germany and France – next month and a “real” launch in September when all the pieces are in place.
Specifically, the sites will then have all local content, local language, and payment in local currency, as well as all the regular features “that you find on the US site” of the Pacific Grove, CA-based catalog portal, European managing director John Pincott said.
German, British and French visitors will have access to the 650 US merchants offering 300,000 products available on the American site. “We expect to add 400 merchants across the three countries by the end of the year,” Pincott said.
“We have a few European merchants signed up already but we have only just moved into our sales mode from developing the site and processing its various features.” Initial contacts with local merchants were promising.
“Response is difficult to quantify at this stage, but the quality has been fantastic, both from US catalogers who see this as an opportunity to test European markets and by local merchants who don’t have anything like this.
“Europe has a catalog request business on and offline but we are not about that. We are interested in bringing customers to our merchant partners.”
Logistics is another crucial aspect of Catalog City’s globalization plans. “Right now only about 20 percent of American catalogers ship outside the US and for consumers it can be like looking for a needle in a haystack.
“They find a catalog they would like to buy from only to discover a sign saying ‘we don’t ship internationally.’ We have a new service called trans-shipment where that simply can’t happen.”
Catalog City is building a network of shipment hubs around the world so that catalogers need not mail out of the country but send items to an “alias” address say in the US where orders from different catalogers are received.
They are then consolidated for the most cost-effective shipping, sent to the country of destination where they are cleared through customs with all duties and taxes paid and then delivered to the buyer.
“All Catalog City merchant partners thus become global players without having to change their back-end systems or to negotiate with shippers to handle delivery.”
The alias address can be used by the buyer for other purposes as well. Once it is established, for example, a buyer in England can purchase a US catalog item and instruct the Hub in Newark, NJ, to send it to his aunt in Canada.
Catalog City already has one such hub in operation: the Miami center last year handled goods destined for Latin America valued at more than $100 million.
Initial outside reaction has also been favorable. Annie Rigoureau, writing in “Catalogue’s” said “Catalog City had hired a French consultant who helped it approach the market in terms of consumer habits, government regulations and knowledge of local enterprises.”
And she contrasted Catalog City’s attitude with that of Katalog Kiosk, a German company that does much the same thing. The Germans, she wrote, “simply reproduced their experience in Germany in their mailings without the least effort to study the French market.”
There is another difference: the Germans are only out to spur catalog requests, the Americans want to sell products on line and charge merchants a percentage of the goods sold.