An economy on the brink of being declared in recession has done nothing to stop Dorian Winslow's plans for expansion.
The president of Womanswork, Sharon, CT, increased circulation for the company's fall/winter 2001-02 catalog to about 45,000, up from a little less than 25,000 last year.
“I went further into my house list, which includes 115,000 names,” said Winslow, who does no prospecting and whose catalog features items such as gloves for gardening. “I went back several years, which made sense since our products last for quite some time and people may not always be ready to buy gloves right away. I also lowered the criteria for what they spent in going deeper into my house file.”
While the dimensions (5 1/4 by 8 1/4 inches) and page count (16) remained constant, the number of items increased to 60 from 35 last year.
Preliminary results since the late October drop indicate success following the increase in products available and circulation. Winslow anticipated a $50 average order size for the catalog following last year's average of $46. The average through Nov. 12 was $53.
“I think it's because I've put in an interesting mix of items, and it is a little less focused on just gloves,” she said. “We've tried to encourage people to buy more than one pair of gloves by adding a glove guide on page 8, which outlines recommended uses for different types of gloves.”
The general “feel of the outdoors” can also be found in the book.
Except for the Womanswork deerskin work glove ($28.95), every item on page 6 is new. The page includes super shorts ($39.95), a women's V-neck T-shirt ($12.95 or two for $23), an outback hat ($28.95) and a photo of a woman standing next to a horse.
“What I've tried to do is create activities tied to the different gloves,” Winslow said. “Those items are things that go with riding and make a nice story. I could see myself wearing those things when I'm around horses.”
A “kids' page” was created on page 9 on which the Kidswork glove ($14.95) is the only item not new to the catalog. The page also includes a tag-along seat ($19.95), genuine muck boots for youngsters ($39.95) and a child's garden hat ($22).
While 5 percent of buyers are male, the typical customer is female, older than 35, with above-average income.
Prices were not raised this year. Based on early sales, Winslow thinks she will duplicate last year's 5 percent response rate.
“We added color to the catalog for the first time,” said Winslow, who also publishes a spring book. “We kept black-and-white photos of friends and relatives wearing our products and put product shots in color.
“For those people who view these gloves as an indulgence, I think when the economy is soft, that's when people treat themselves to small indulgences and deny themselves a fur coat or a new house.”
Phone orders, order forms mailed in and orders placed via the company's Web site, www.womanswork.com, are each expected to generate nearly one-third of sales, while the number of orders placed by fax and e-mail will be negligible.
The per-piece cost to mail this year's book was 25 cents, up from 21.5 cents last year. Printing costs increased from 21 cents per piece last year to 23.5 cents this year.
The printer was Spencer Press, Wells, ME.
Winslow continued the book's tradition of including testimonials from satisfied customers such as, “Womanswork gloves are old friends that I always want to have with me no matter where I go.”
Winslow's direct-to-consumer business is complemented by wholesale and private-label divisions.
Goals for next year's book include an increase to 24 pages as well as prospecting.