Old Glory Waves the Flag for Rock

Tom Kothman is one of the few catalogers who can credit nostalgia for the success of his latest book.

Music and entertainment merchandise catalog Old Glory Distributing Co. projects a year-over-year rise in response rate that Kothman links to the popularity of rock 'n' roll groups that have entertained fans for decades.

“A big part of our success is because of the strength of rock, classic rock and rock legends,” said Kothman, CEO of Old Glory Boutique Distributing Inc., Westbrook, CT, publisher of the Old Glory catalog. “Look at Aerosmith. How long have they been around? We do proprietary product for Aerosmith. And look at the Rolling Stones. Both are on tour, and that's helped us as well. And we've also seen a big resurgence in Pink Floyd. Today's music is struggling to find itself with no popular, broad-based attraction like classic rock. Look at who's No. 1. Elvis. The day [“Elvis 30 #1 Hits”] was released it was No. 1.”

Kothman projects the book's response rate at 2.5 percent to 3 percent. The issue released in mid-September 2001 drew just above 2 percent.

“One of the things that works with our catalog is that there are not a whole lot of stores that carry this stuff, or there might be a long drive to get to them,” he said. “So they can get merchandise through this catalog they can't get locally if they're outside big cities.”

Smart management of stock also has driven the book's success.

“With the Stones' 40th anniversary tour, their licensing group pulled all the licenses back in,” Kothman said. “We saw that coming and loaded up on the existing product. If you wanted a Stones shirt, we were about the only game in town if you didn't want to go to a concert. A shirt that costs $8 or $9 to produce can go for $60 or $70 at the concert venue. But in our book, it's $19.95 to $29.95. The death of an artist also helps sales. When John Entwistle died, we saw a brief pop with The Who merchandise.”

The average price of items in the book rose to $22.95 from $21.95 a year ago. Circulation stayed at 500,000, and the percentage of prospects targeted was also constant at 10 percent. Also unchanged were the page count at 64 and the number of products – about 2000.

The catalog packs in the products, displaying small images with many pages having 36 items. Along with T-shirts and hats, the catalog offers tapestries, decals, jewelry as well as “femme fashion,” “modern male” and “aromas & accents” sections. “Treasures From the Tomb,” “Myth & Magick,” “Legends & Lore” and “Heroes & Villains” are in the back of the catalog along with a “Party Time” section that includes adult, drug and alcohol humor.

Though T-shirts and other rock-related items are its bread and butter, Old Glory also sells U.S. flags. But except for a brief flurry last year when the company sold several hundred immediately after 9/11, accounting for 30 to 40 percent of business, flags are a very small percentage of sales. The company even added a section with flags and other patriotic-themed items for its catalog that dropped late last October, but there's no such section in this most recent book.

“There was a big flurry last year, but not much sustaining power,” Kothman said of items with patriotic themes.

The cover states “Cool Halloween Ideas Inside!” and “Over 700 New Products In This Issue!”

“The 700 new products is a function of the licenses we can maintain,” he said. “By including the Goth stuff, you're able to capture a chunk of Halloween business.”

Kothman said Jerry Garcia's death has done nothing to slow sales of products related to The Grateful Dead, which have six pages in the front of the book compared with one page each for The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd and Bob Marley. A five-page Modern Rock section is also included along with one page each for heavy metal and the group Phish.

He described his customers as 60 percent female, ages 25 to 55 with an average household income of $75,000.

“We have a lot of moms and girlfriends buying for children or boyfriends,” he said.

Average order amount year over year remains at just over $60. Online sales account for 55 percent of sales, up from 44 percent last year.

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