Relax the Back Realigns Its Prospecting

A tripling in the number of prospects targeted compared with last year may pay off for a marketer of high-end chairs, recliners, fitness products and mattresses designed to relieve back and neck pain.

Relax the Back mailed its spring 2002 book that May to 200,000 recipients split evenly between prospects and its house file. The early summer 2003 catalog went to 400,000 recipients, including 300,000 prospects obtained through a co-op database. It was sent in three drops: early May, mid-May and early June.

Though “it’s too soon to tell,” Leanne Mattes, vice president of marketing at Relax the Back, thinks the catalog may equal the 2002 book’s response rate of 0.76 percent, which is the current issue’s goal. Response was 0.5 percent through the end of May.

The Cerritos, CA, company also had increased circulation for its 2003 spring book. That book fell short of expectations, though Mattes attributed much of the decline to it being in people’s hands during the Iraq war.

“We felt we had to give [the increase in circulation] one more try after the prior March/April book since the war had been settled at this point,” she said.

The average order for the early summer book is down compared with the spring 2002 catalog: $226 vs. last spring’s $248. Despite the year-over-year drop, it represents an improvement from the 2003 spring book’s $196 average order.

“Because of the mattress sales, I still think that we’re going to get to a $250 average order amount,” she said.

New for the early summer 2003 catalog is the mattress promotion on page 12 and the back cover. Customers receive two Tempur-Pedic Swedish Neck Pillows with every purchase of a Tempur-Pedic Swedish Mattress or Swedish Sleep System. It’s described as a $198 value.

“[This] has led to the sale of more mattresses from this catalog than we’ve ever sold,” she said. “Without it, the average order amount from this catalog would be down from what it is.”

The Tempur-Pedic Mattress is the top seller in dollars generated. The price range, depending on size, for the mattress is $999 to $2,299. The foundations for the mattresses range from $185 to $300.

Other changes this year include less white space; the list of retail locations was moved from page 21 to the inside back cover; and more lifestyle shots, including on the cover.

“There was some increase in SKUs to get more productivity out of the pages,” she said. “What’s really important is that they see somebody using the products. The chairs, by themselves, are not all that appealing, but when you see somebody laying down on the bed or sitting in the chair, you understand how people benefit from the comfort that the products offer.”

Page count year-over-year stayed at 32. The target audience is consumers ages 35-45 with an annual household income above $85,000 and home value exceeding $250,000.

“They are less likely to be retired and less likely to have children in the house,” she said. “They are active adults who like to travel, and they’re not price sensitive. About 53 percent are women.”

The company produces six catalogs yearly: winter, spring, early summer, summer, fall and holiday.

In an unusual trend for catalogers, Relax the Back has seen a rise in call center orders from its catalog while sales via its Web site,, have fallen. For the current book, the call center is drawing 61 percent of catalog orders with almost all the rest generated via the site. A year ago, the call center generated about 45 percent.

“People want more of a personal contact,” she said. “Our product is a little difficult to understand, and more beds are being ordered this year and that takes more of an explanation. If you’re going to pay that much for a product, you’re going to want to talk to somebody about it.”

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