Cataloger Prunes Prospects to Raise Response

A change in prospecting lists and increased mailings to its house file helped gardening catalog Jackson & Perkins keep overall dollars for its fall catalog the same as last year despite a drop in the number of books mailed and average order amount.

“Any time you can hold your own in a down economy, that's not bad,” said Bill Michel, senior vice president and general manager of direct marketing at Jackson & Perkins, Medford, OR.

The cataloger mailed more than 2 million copies of its fall books, 6 percent to 7 percent less than last year. The average order is $80 to $90, a 4 percent dip from last year. Offsetting those declines was a slight rise in response rate, which is 1.5 percent to 3 percent.

Michel attributes the higher response to a change in prospecting efforts and increase in mailings to the house file from 70 percent last fall to 75 percent this fall.

“The changes in prospecting this year included the use of better-quality lists, and we also used some of the broader-based sources like Abacus and other compiled lists,” he said. “We pulled names from about 25 lists this year and last year.”

The typical Jackson & Perkins customer is female ages 45 to 64 with a household income of $50,000 to $65,000.

Jackson & Perkins used two covers for the fall catalog, though inside pages were identical. One cover, which mailed July 2 and July 23, had a strip across the lower right corner touting up to 52 percent off on “Our Big Fall Bulb Sale” ending Sept. 15. The second cover, which dropped in mid-August and Sept. 10, had a larger strip across the lower right that read, “Hurry! Order Now! SAVE UP TO 52% … Fall Bulb Sale Extended 'til October 31.”

The first cover accounted for almost 60 percent of overall circulation and the majority of the prospecting.

The cover offer on last fall's catalog was “Save BIG on over 70 great bulb varieties.”

“The cover offer is important in order to create a sense of urgency,” Michel said. “We wanted customers this year to get the cover open by stressing the savings amount as opposed to last year when it was the number of items.”

Page count is 36, down four from last year. This helped offset the rise in postage, as this year's per-piece cost has decreased 3 percent to 5 percent to about 40 cents.

“We went with an increased density of the product assortment due to the increase in postage,” he said. “The SKU total is 3 percent to 5 percent less than last year on 10 percent fewer pages. We change between 10 percent and 15 percent of the items appearing in the book every year.”

The average price of items in the catalog remained at $30. Hot sellers this year include Super Lily Collection ($49.95), Fragrant Oriental Lily Collection ($49.95), Deeresistible Bulb Gardens ($29.95 or $54.95), Autumn Color Garden ($59.95 or $99.95) and Native Perennial Garden ($129.95).

About 65 percent of orders are phoned in while 20 percent come through The percentage of telephone orders is the same as last year. Online orders are up from 15 percent last year.

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