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Catalogers Roll Out New Books for Fall

A flurry of new catalogs hit mailboxes to kick off the fall mailing season, including books from larger multi-title catalog companies and retailers expanding their businesses.

New books include Gramercy Home, the first home-furnishings catalog from women's apparel cataloger Brylane; Elements, a Spiegel catalog of home furnishings and clothing for the working woman; Talbots Woman, a catalog of upscale merchandise for the plus-sized woman; and Banana Republic's first catalog in 10 years.

At Brylane, famous for its plus-sized and low-priced apparel, the decision to move into a new market was a way to leverage the company's customer file.

“We have one of the largest house files in the business — 25 million names. Over half of them are current customers. And our file is primarily women, so this seemed like a natural business to go into,” said Peter Canzone, Brylane chairman/CEO.

In addition, while the housewares book includes dinnerware and cookware, it's primarily focused on bedding and other home-textile products, making it an easy transition from the apparel business, he said. Featuring an offer for twin-sized cotton jersey sheets for $14.99 on the cover, the book is similar in price and style to the company's apparel offerings.

“It's structured so that it appeals to our customers as far as price, style and tastes,” Canzone said. “Our apparel books are price-oriented and most compete with off-price stores. Chadwick's is 25 to 50 percent less than retail stores, so it's value-conscious, and I'd describe it as classic, basic merchandise that doesn't go out of style quickly.”

Similarly, Gramercy Home emphasizes sheets, towels and blankets in basic, solid colors and comforters in solids and a variety of floral patterns.

The 68-page book, designed by AGA & Catalog Marketing & Design, New York, mailed the second weekend in September and initially has received a strong response. The timing of the catalog was mainly convenience, Canzone said, noting the company came up with the idea nine months ago and this was the fastest the book could be launched. Two million copies were sent primarily to its own list, but also to some outside lists.

“The fall is strictly the test period,” he said. “We're testing outside lists but we're also testing segments of our own list. For example, we have our own credit card and we're testing our credit card customers against bank card customers.”

The company plans to mail another 2 million books in October, unless the first mailing performs so well that inventory is depleted. In that case, the second mailing will be scaled down.

Meanwhile, another catalog that chose to launch at the start of this season, Spiegel's Elements, portrays itself as a spiritual book for the working woman. Much of the home furnishings and apparel featured in the catalog is shot on woven seagrass rugs with candles burning in the background. Introductory copy invites customers to “design your own sanctuary with special pieces that invite you to slow down, contemplate and reflect on the here and now.”

The company wouldn't reveal how may copies were mailed when the book was launched Sept. 8 and would only say that they went to a mix of current customers and prospects. Merchandise includes a velvet bean bag chair, a table made out of bamboo and metal, suede pillows and clothing primarily made of fabric such as velvet and chenille.

While Spiegel's big book remains the foundation of its catalog business, Elements is part of the company's goal of positioning itself to target the working woman. The catalog is expected to be mailed every six to eight weeks.

Talbots' new plus-sized Talbots Woman catalog coincided with the opening of the company's first Talbots Woman store, on Sept. 10 in St. Louis. It decided to enter the plus-sized market based on findings that 40 percent of U.S. women wear large-size clothing and there was room for growth in the upscale sector of that market.

“We know that these women are looking for the same classic styling, high quality and level of service that we offer to our misses and petite customers,” said Talbots president/CEO Arnold B. Zetcher.

In addition, the company said it would be a logical extension of the brand, added spokeswoman Margery Myers.

The company plans to mail 1.2 million copies this fall, including the early September mailing, a later re-mail and a holiday book scheduled for November, Myers said. The catalog is being mailed to a combination of internal names from the existing catalog, names from outside lists and names culled from an Internet signup, an aggressive instore sign-up and an inbound telemarketing signup conducted when existing catalog customers called to place an order.

Because this fall is considered a test period, Talbots hasn't determined how frequently the catalog will mail.

Finally, Banana Republic's catalog dropped Sept. 14. In addition to an undisclosed-sized mailing, it was bundled with The New York Times, the New York edition of The Wall Street Journal, the San Francisco Examiner, the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Jose Mercury News, The Chicago Tribune, The New Yorker and Chicago Magazine. Stack cards will be inserted in the October issues of GQ, Vanity Fair, Vogue, The New Yorker and Conde Nast Traveler.

The catalog also is being made available in prominent hotels and in airports in New York, San Francisco and Chicago. There also were postcard distributions and outdoor ads in those cities, and New York City MetroCards had ads for the catalog on the back. The initial catalog is 100 pages, perfect bound and matte-paper finished. It features clothing and accessories made of suede in the front of the book and emphasizes the company's traditional colors of brown, tan, olive and black.

A winter issue will be available Oct. 16, and the catalog is expected to mail 10 times annually.

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