Specialty Catalog Will Increase Efforts to Reach African-American Women

Niche direct marketer Specialty Catalog Corp., South Easton, MA, said it will significantly expand its catalogs and merchandising business to reach the growing demand among African-American women for specialized products, clothing and accessories.

The company's recently introduced new products in its Star Jones and Diahann Carroll lines and the substantial sales growth of its Especially Yours apparel and hair products catalog helped to double first-quarter net sales for the company compared with the same period in 1998. Most of this increase in the Especially Yours business, which targets African-American women over the age of 35, was offset by a decrease in net sales from the company's other brands.

The Especially Yours business is now our leading retail product, said Steve Bock, president/CEO.

“Catalogers typically have not targeted their products to meet the specific needs of African-American women,” Bock said. “The styles and textures they are looking for are different, and we're addressing those specific needs on our hair products side and on the apparel side where we know there is more of a crossover demand.”

And as database modeling becomes more sophisticated, Bock said Specialty Catalog will develop “quite a proprietary database.”

Specialty Catalog has made a name for itself developing and marketing niche category merchandise to consumers through direct mail catalogs. The company is a leading retailer of women's wigs and hairpieces and also offers apparel, accessories, customized merchandise and continuing education courses aimed at nursing professionals and certified public accounts through its Western Schools catalog division.

However, as one of the few companies to carve out a niche for itself selling specialized hairpiece products to African-American women, the company is in a unique position to expand its overall business by leveraging the strong brand loyalty it has developed among black women. The company said it will aggressively pursue opportunities to build on that growth as it looks to the future.

However, according to Howard Buford, president of Prime Access Inc., New York, an agency that specializes in minority advertising, “Targeting African-American consumers requires more than developing the right medium. You have to reach them in a relevant way.”

But Bock seems confident his strategy is on the right track.

“Over time we will develop this into a multiple product catalog for a market that has long been underserved,” he said.

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