Cataloger Pitches New Baseball Book at Players, Coaches

Mike Hurm apparently has no fear when it comes to the daunting task of being a start-up cataloger.

In April, he left his job as national sales director of Sun Time Enterprises, Clearwater, FL, a manufacturer of licensed sports collectibles, and became president of Everything Baseball, Green Harbor, MA, which sells baseball-themed collectibles.

Those who think this is some sort of hobby should think again. He and his wife, company vice president Andrea Hurm, are making their new entity a full-time commitment.

He spent much of the spring and summer establishing relationships with 75 suppliers and acquiring products. Hurm also digitally photographed most of the items that appear in his first catalog, which dropped Aug. 9. Inventory resides not in a warehouse but in his basement.

“We started out with buying minimums across the board, so inventory management is becoming a big thing to deal with,” he said.

He mailed 8,400 copies of the fall 2001 book. About 30 percent went to current and former major-league baseball players and their wives; 35 percent to all college baseball coaches in the United States; 20 percent to parents of children who play the game; 10 percent to baseball enthusiasts; and 5 percent to current and former major-league umpires.

“I have not rented or purchased any lists,” he said. “We spent two weeks on the Internet searching for every youth baseball league that had a Web site, and we contacted all of their directors. We told them that if they wanted a catalog, we would send one to them after they e-mailed back their name and street address.”

It is the wives of current and former major-league players and coaches who are key to the Hurms' effort. Andrea Hurm is the former nanny and personal assistant for the family of Wade Boggs, whose major-league accomplishments include more than 3,000 career base hits.

“Through Wade's wife, Debbie, my wife got to know a lot of the wives, and we have been leaning on the wives for a lot of our feedback,” he said. “We had quite a few names and addresses because of who my wife knows. We knew that our products would sell to them and that if we mailed a catalog to their door, we would get a lot of responses for it.

“We know that baseball fans as well as high school and college coaches like that kind of stuff on their desks. They want generic baseball stuff.”

The cover is 80-pound paper and features the Hurms' 4-year-old niece wearing a Michael Simon Girls Cardigan. The cover also has the Cal Doubleplay baseball bear and the #1 Baseball Bear as well as a Bronze Baseball Boy Pitching Statue. It also teases a free, limited-edition baseball bear with any $50 order. The offer is repeated on the order form and back cover. The inside of the 52-page, 342-item book uses 60-pound text.

“On the front we wanted to show that it wasn't just apparel and figurines because we wanted to show that we had everything else in between,” he said. “By having my niece on the cover, we wanted to show that this isn't just for boys.”

The cost per piece was about $1.10 plus 33 cents postage. Mike Hurm hopes for a minimum response of 2 percent to 3 percent. The cataloger's toll-free number appears on the cover.

“The average price point is $29.98,” he said. “Most people are telling us they'll place a Christmas order, and we're hoping people keep it around until then. It will be a burden to do a separate Christmas catalog. We don't know if we'll do that or a March spring training catalog next.”

As of Sept. 4, the average order has been $77.14 on 50 orders.

An e-commerce site is planned for next year, and the Hurms want to target the nation's high school baseball coaches in 2002.

With the next drop likely to coincide with spring training in March, Mike Hurm plans to increase circulation by using “at least two or three baseball-specific test lists” that may include those provided by Baseball America or Baseball Weekly.

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