Esprit Searches Stores for Models

Less than a year since the re-launch of its catalog after a 10-year hiatus, Esprit de Corp., San Francisco, is using a nationwide model search as the focal point of its 30th anniversary celebrations.

“There are several reasons for the search: It's our 30th anniversary; we want to show our appreciation to our customers and our key retail accounts; and it's a great way of generating excitement for our catalog,” said John Ordoña, public relations coordinator. “We've always had a tradition of using 'real people' types of models in our catalogs and ads, so this fits well with our style.”

Since its re-introduction in October, the catalog has been closely tied to the company's retail operation, and officials noted that it was intended to be as much of an image piece and driver of retail sales as a mail-order operation. The catalog model search furthers the connection between the two sides of the business.

Five grand-prize winners will receive a trip to San Francisco to be photographed for the company's spring 1999 catalog. Twenty-five additional winners will receive prizes ranging from Hewlett-Packard personal computers to Mongoose mountain bikes.

Since re-introduction, each of the company's catalogs has used people who do not model professionally. The concept of “real people” models is one that the company's earlier catalog often used in the 1980s.

The company's fall 1997 and summer 1998 catalogs used Esprit employees as models, along with short quotes from them.

“We wanted customers to see what goes on in the company and show the company's personality,” said Wilbur Swan, director of mail order. He said the summer catalog, due out shortly, features some employees who are accompanied by their mothers and daughters in honor of the 30-year anniversary.

The 1998 spring catalog showed people in the media jobs, including editors from Jane and Marie Claire magazines sharing their memories of the brand.

“It's people we've run into who have grown up with Esprit and their quotes from their experiences,” he said.

The catalog contest kicked off May 2 with model searches in Esprit stores in Hato Rey, Puerto Rico; and Littleton, CO. It continues until July 25, hitting a combination of Esprit stores and department stores that carry Esprit's line of clothing, such as Macy's, Burdine's and others. In total, the search will be conducted at 18 locations throughout the United States and Puerto Rico.

The retail and department store searches will vary from location to location but may include live radio remotes, professional photographers to take contest applicants' pictures and representatives from beauty salons to offer makeovers, Ordoña said. Catalogs and catalog request forms also will be handed out at all locations.

Starting this year, the catalog is being mailed four times annually, once each season, Swan said. So far, the company has kept circulation to 1 million copies. Copies are sent to internal and rented lists, as well as to customers who request them after seeing them advertised in stores and magazines. On peak days, they have received 8,000 catalog requests, Swan said. Some copies also are sent to stores.

Each issue has been successful, particularly the spring issue, which came in 15 percent above projections, Swan said. The catalog has been modified slightly from its initial issue: The number of pages has grown from 48 to 52 and the size has shrunk from 14 inches by 10 inches to 12 inches by 10 inches because of complaints that the original size was a bit unwieldy.

The contest is open to women ages 16 and older, with consent of a parent or legal guardian required for contestants under 18. Applicants must include a snapshot of themselves with their entry form, and winners will be chosen by a panel of Esprit personnel based on photogenic quality and a 50-word essay.

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