Outdoors Gear Site Starts Catalog to Build Repeat Business

Altrec.com, a marketer of outdoors gear and apparel, has stretched beyond its Internet roots by introducing the first catalog in its five-year history in time for the holiday season.

The Kirkland, WA, company has marketed itself mainly via e-mail, search engines and print ads in national publications such as Backpacker Magazine and National Geographic Adventure Magazine as well as radio stations in the Seattle-Tacoma area. The catalog had been in the works for nine months.

The book went to “tens of thousands of people” constituting 40 percent of the company's house file. Recipients were selected based on purchasing behavior. Prospecting will not be part of the marketing mix.

“It's a matter of taking a prudent approach to this,” said CEO Mike Morford. “We must do a good job with the in-house list. The primary reason we decided to launch the catalog was to cater to existing customers and increase repeat business from them. We get requests for catalogs from customers on a daily basis. We had done direct mail before … not in the form of a catalog, but with postcards. It worked well for us.”

Morford described the target audience as “active, online consumers” in the 24-to-40 age group and 60 percent male. Average annual income exceeds $90,000.

The initial effort is 32 pages, 8 1/2 by 5 1/2 inches.

“The catalog is intended to be a reminder of the Web site,” he said. “It's intended to be a reflection of the site and not a comprehensive list of all of our products. We felt the number of pages and size of the catalog were ideal from a pricing standpoint.”

The catalog includes 10 percent of what's available at www.altrec.com.

“We have a very seasonal business,” he said. “In selecting winter products we considered winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding and some fall activities. Then we looked at gross profit generation in terms of merchandise that has proven to be hot sellers and what we believe will be hot sellers. In terms of fall/winter items, we looked at camping gear and clothing.”

Items in the catalog have an average price around $110. It contains 125 products, but no order form.

“The intent is to get them to go online,” Morford said. “They can also call in and order, but what we didn't want to get into was people sending order forms in through the mail. Our customers have demonstrated that they are comfortable buying online.”

The company has its own call center.

“The nature of the product is very technical,” he said. “If you're going to climb Mount Everest, you don't want to call a generic call center and ask about what harness you're going to use. All of our reps use the equipment we sell.”

Morford expects apparel and footwear to be productive lines. Top sellers may include the Air Zoom Tallac ($139.95) as well as the Denali Jacket on the back cover ($164.95).

Expectations “are not all that high because we feel like we're entering into a new field and our customers haven't seen this in the past,” Morford said. “We see this as a long-term investment in our customer relationships.”

Anything above 2 percent “would be expected” on the catalog's response rate. Morford said more than 70 percent of the book's sales likely will be generated via the site.

Per-piece printing expense was 40 cents while postage came in at 21 cents.

A second, holiday-focused catalog will mail Nov. 17. It also will be 32 pages, but will use a different approach.

“It will feature more of certain items and calling them out stronger than others,” he said. “It will be an even more refined look at using compelling imagery to get people to get into the outdoors.”

An even smaller percentage of the house file will be targeted, with only some of the initial book's recipients getting the second book.

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