Stonewall Kitchen Fattens on Prospects

Ambitious prospecting by food cataloger Stonewall Kitchen's fall catalog has paid off.

The cataloger dropped 500,000 fall books, up from 300,000 last year, with 85 percent going to prospects. The response rate slipped from 2.2 percent to 2 percent, but the average order amount leaped from $51 last year to $65 this fall.

Driving the year-over-year improvement was a rise in the average price of items from $30 last year to $40.09. An increase in the number of accessories, organizers and other hard goods helped Stonewall Kitchen boost the average price point.

“Stonewall Kitchen food remains the staple product line of the book,” said Joan Walsh, director of the catalog division at Stonewall Kitchen, York, ME. “Hard goods provided an increase in average order value as well as larger margin dollars. Our food items offer low price points, and in order to increase our AOV, we've added items with higher price points, and this includes hard goods, decorative accessories and kitchen organizer items.

“We determined that we should not be afraid to use higher-priced items. We included more decorative accessories and more service wear and dinner wear at the high end.”

One example that has been a hot seller is the parlor cabinet, priced at $999 plus $125 for shipping and handling.

Stonewall Kitchen's aggressive approach carried over to its emphasis on prospecting.

“If all you do is continue to mail to your house file, it remains small,” Walsh said. “Our owners want to grow the house file and make our universe large, so we are going to be aggressive and take chances.

“Cooperative databases like Abacus and Z-24 are much better performers for us than only going out and using lists from other catalogers with similar target audiences. We used the cooperative databases such as Abacus and Z-24 to a much lesser extent last year when we were just testing them. We're still renting certain catalog lists, and we are maximizing those lists.”

The total number of books mailed next year is projected to reach 5.3 million with even more expected to mail in '04. This year the company will mail 2.5 million catalogs.

Stonewall Kitchen mainly targets women ages 35 to 55 with average annual household incomes of more than $100,000. Walsh said the income level has helped insulate the company from the recession.

The fall book is 52 pages, up from 40 last year. Plans are to reach 56 by next fall.

Two-thirds of orders from the fall book came by phone while 30 percent came from the company's Web site. Last year the site accounted for 16 percent to 18 percent of sales.

The company no longer uses an outside vendor for photography as it did last year, a decision that helped lower the total per-piece cost of the book from 58 cents last year to 54 cents, along with the increased printing volume.

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