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Smith & Hawken Puts Spotlight on Wreaths

A change in the positioning of a key product line highlights the 2003 holiday catalogs by Smith & Hawken.

Wreaths were scattered throughout the holiday preview 2002 book. A Winter Frost Wreath and Branch appeared on page 5 with several wreaths relegated to the back of the book. This year's holiday book features a Williamsburg Wreath and Centerpiece on the opening spread with wreaths occupying prime real estate on pages 6 and 7.

“The wreath category is one in which Smith & Hawken has always had a dominance in,” said Barry Gilbert, CEO of Smith & Hawken, Novato, CA, a marketer of high-end garden-themed products that annually publishes 12 catalogs. “We've beefed up our wreath assortment, and we are looking for great things from that. This has been a strategic initiative, to move them front and center this year. That was the major initiative for this book without question.”

Price points range from $39 for the Fresh Oregonia Wreath to the $139 Erin Wreath.

Unchanged from a year ago is the target demographic: 85 percent female, with a “very large percentage” in single-family homes with an average annual household income around $100,000. The books dropped Oct. 7 in both years.

Gilbert expects to improve over last year's effort, as the year-over-year holiday catalog circulation was increased in percentage terms by single digits. He would peg circulation only as being “in the millions” and less than 10 million.

“It's absolutely going in the right direction, and I have a very positive feeling,” he said. “I would like to get a 10 percent increase in the average order amount. I don't think it's out of the question. I would like to see the response rate be a single-digit percentage increase over last year's response rate.”

Also different this holiday season was the use of a model on the cover. It was only the second time in the past 2 1/2 years this has been done.

“Smith & Hawken has not actively used models in its books,” he said. “But we think using people enhances the product and increases the customer's desire to pick it up, open it and feel more comfortable about buying products in our book.

“We're spending more per book. We've increased our expenditure in terms of photography. We've improved the quality of locations with more location shots and a lot less silhouette shots.”

Though page count stayed at 76, density increased 10 percent to 15 percent from last year. About 40 percent of the merchandise in the catalog didn't appear a year ago.

“That's pretty typical, and it's essential,” Gilbert said. “Our customers look to us for new, exciting products. To differentiate ourselves in the plethora of books they receive, you have to be fresh.

“We've spent a great deal of money and time creating new product. The problem with a lot of new product is you've got to get it into the book. This is the end result of a year and a half of developing a team.”

The company expanded the size of its product development team 50 percent.

“I sent them all over the globe — finding new ideas, looking at what's happening in France and Asia so they could bring back great ideas,” he said. “We live off of having new products.”

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