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School Means Sales For eBags.com

Luggage seller eBags.com is not tardy for the back-to-school season.

In fact, the retailer seems eager to see the report card for its in-progress campaign: “Plug in. Make noise. Stand out.” That slogan accompanies targeted efforts via catalog, Web, e-mail, television and public relations through the next four weeks.

How the overall campaign grades out is no small matter to this 7-year-old former Internet pure play. The period between late July and mid-September produces 20 percent of eBags.com’s annual revenue.

“For something like back to school, we really do take a 360-degree and holistic approach,” said Peter Cobb, co-founder and senior vice president of marketing at eBags.com, Greenwood Village, CO. “We try to hit potential customers with all of our guns loaded.”

The firm’s back-to-school 2006 catalog mailed July 24 to 800,000 households that had shown a likelihood of having children ages 8-16.

The 32-page slim jim offers not only backpacks, laptop bags and portable player carriers by JanSport, EastPak, Patagonia and Nike, but also school shoes and even designer handbags for the mom holding the credit card. The latter two items hail from eBags.com sister Web division, shoe and accessories retailer 6pm.com.

Mr. Cobb said that mixed merchandising reflects how schoolbags have grown to be viewed recently. He suggested that the gap between pure school utility and fashion sensibility has shrunk.

“Ten years ago, people were just happy with the backpack they had happened to buy,” he said. “It was more of a utilitarian piece. Now, like shoes or jeans, backpacks are an accessory. Now, they seem to say something about who the kids are.”

Design Your Own Bag

Pages 20 and 21 of the catalog debut the graffiti-chic line of bags from Tagger, a Dutch manufacturer from Amsterdam that eBags.com signed to exclusively distribute via the Web in the United States.

The Tagger selection lets shoppers design their own bags with templates of graffiti-style art or by creating new “tags” from virtual scratch. The options are available only at eBags.com in the United States, where viewers can click on things like the bag flap and bag strap in order to choose the colors and looks they prefer.

Tagger bags cost $60, and the online copy for the products reads “Build This Bag!”

“The idea of designing your own product or look and customizing something yourself is huge right now,” Mr. Cobb said, “especially with kids who have iPods and TiVo. All of us who sell products to kids should listen to them.”

A full bag of promotions

The catalog and Tagger line are just the beginning of the firm’s plans for boosting orders during back to school. EBags.com has begun a four-week pilot for a television ad that will be seen in select markets during shows like “Oprah,” “The View” and “Dr. Phil” as well as on some cable programs.

Additionally, newsstand magazines are being targeted for editorial. E-mail will be sent to at least 600,000 recent customers during the next few weeks, using much of the artwork seen in the catalog, at the Web site at www.ebags.com and in print editorial. Tagger’s line and other trusty sellers will be showcased in the e-mail messaging.

“So this allows people to either see our products through catalog, e-mail, TV commercial or on Google search,” Mr. Cobb said. “The thing about the [December] holidays is that they are blanketed with catalogs and other media. With back to school, you don’t have the same competition. Right now, it’s just a few select companies.”

Back to school is eBags.com’s second biggest season, averaging about $70 per order, while the December holidays come in first with a checkout of around $100.

Last December, the sister site at www.6pm.com began offering RSS feed subscriptions to its viewer base and was rewarded with a positive response. The program is being migrated to eBags.com because the company saw the Tagger line recently gain immediate traction via the RSS audience at 6pm.com.

“We had 250 people inquire to use within four days after we made an announcement [about RSS],” Mr. Cobb said. “They wanted to know when the Tagger bags were going to be available. When you have customers raising their hand rather than leaving the store without dropping their business card in the fish bowl, it doesn’t get any better than that.”







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