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EToys Isn't Playing Around When It Comes to Catalogs

When it comes to catalogs, playtime is over for toy Web site eToys.com, which first tested a mail-order book in 2003. This holiday season, the company will mail more than 1.4 million eToys catalogs, more than doubling the circulation from a second test in 2004.

EToys, Denver, began in 1999 as the online subsidiary of retail chain KB Toys. Last May, eToys split from KB and became eToys Direct Inc. A month later, it acquired most of the assets of custom-doll maker My Twinn Doll Company, whose catalog circulation also will rise this year. EToys' other ventures include providing toy merchandising and fulfillment for Sears.com, the Sears Wish Book and Kmart.com, among others.

Online sales will remain the principal business of the eToys brand, said Gary Lindsey, vice president of marketing. However, mailing eToys catalogs to customers “gives them an opportunity to hand the catalog to their children, who can look through it, indicate what they want and hand it back to their parents, who now have a wish list.”

Parents also can page through the catalog in lieu of spending time online searching for items, he added.

The 124-page holiday 2004 test catalog mailed to 700,000 names including prospects and Web site customers. The targets were online shoppers, people with children younger than 12 and those who have bought from catalogs previously.

One indication of that test's success is that eToys' average order increased $15 in 2004 compared with its 2003 mailing, Lindsey said.

What sets the eToys catalog apart, he said, is its higher page count and larger number of items per page compared with Toys 'R' Us' and Wal-Mart's direct mail pieces, letting eToys showcase more items. Last year's eToys book totaled 1,200 SKUs. Throughout the catalog, customers are directed to the eToys Web site, which offers 8,000 SKUs.

EToys' assortment includes well-known brands such as Barbie and Fisher-Price as well as a large selection of construction toys, dollhouses, educational items and exclusive items, Lindsey said. There are items for preschoolers up to teenagers and adults interested in video games. Prices range from $9 to more than $300.

Besides more than doubling circulation in 2005, eToys won't change much else. This year's edition, as with the prior versions, will mail during the holiday season. It will contain 124 pages and feature about the same number of items as the 2004 version. It will target a similar audience.

In addition, My Twinn Doll Company has been around since 1991 and sells 23-inch-tall vinyl dolls custom made to look like someone's daughter. They sell for $129 apiece. The My Twinn Doll catalog also offers 35 outfits — for both the doll and its owner — as well as shoes, purses and hair accessories that sell for $3.50 to $59. The main target is girls ages 3-12.

My Twinn mainly has been a catalog business. One of the first things eToys did upon acquiring the property was to relaunch its Web site, mytwinn.com, to put more of an emphasis on new merchandise, Lindsey said.

“We've driven a lot more [My Twinn Doll] customers to the Web with the more robust site,” said Lindsey, who noted that mytwinn.com's number of Web customers increased 50 percent from 2003 to 2004.

The seven-times-a-year My Twinn catalog rises from 48 pages to 56 in 2005. The space will be used mainly for additional accessories and clothing.

“There is a big demand for those,” Lindsey said.

EToys also will double the My Twinn catalog's circulation, though Lindsey wouldn't reveal its current circulation.

Chantal Todé covers catalog and retail news and BTB marketing for DM News and DM News.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters

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