US Designer Creates Marks & Spencer Fashion Catalog

NEW YORK – AGA, a catalog design company, created and last month launched an apparel catalog for one of Britain's best-loved institutions, the retailer Marks & Spencer.

The 128-page book, featuring mostly women's clothes, was sent to names carefully selected from the store's 5 million customer database in Scotland and Southeast England.

“We worked very closely with Marks & Spencer to create a look, feel, tone and voice for the catalog,” said Robin Glat, director of marketing services for AGA.

“We had to create a visual structure that promoted Marks & Spencer's fabulous merchandise and fabulous value. We had to get that across and energize it,” she added.

To create a catalog for one of Britain's best established retailers was a challenge, as the product is “very strong and very loved,” Glat said.

It was important, she continued, to put the right kind of model against an appropriate background. AGA managed the photography, helped choose the wardrobe and decided upon the layout.

Marks & Spencer chose the US firm because it had wide experience in the catalog field, designing books for such mail order giants as Avon and Brylane. The British retailer went into apparel catalogs to increase its market share in the UK's mail-order shopping business.

Although it sells home furnishings, business clothing, school wear, flowers and wine direct (netting $141 million annually), women's clothes could only be bought off the rack.

“The catalog is an added customer service and gives our customers the choice of how they want to shop,” said Cheryl Kuczynski, head of corporate relations for the store.

Clothes can be returned free of charge – either mailed at the company's expense or collected from the customer's home. Returns can also be made at all of Marks & Spencer's 650 stores nationwide.

To help educate its customers on shopping from home, (Marks & Spencer predicts that some may not have bought anything from a catalog before) the book contains a “how to order” section, with information on ordering, paying, delivery and returning direct.

A drawback, however, is that only Marks & Spencer's in-house card can be used to pay for goods and there are no plans to change this policy in the future.

There has been “a great deal of optimism for the test program for this book,” according to company spokespersons, although they concede receiving negative feedback from

customers who want more children's and men's clothing.

Another pilot catalog will be launched this fall, again only in Scotland and south east England. The timing of the national launch is yet to be announced.

Marks & Spencer has plans to sell direct to the US, although only after its UK catalog service is up and running.

Established in 1944, AGA also designed the 1997 Marks & Spencer HOME catalog. It has an office in London with 30 staff but no other overseas clients.

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