A few weeks ago, I took Terry’s Village to task (click here) for doing a sale catalog which had full copy blocks for individual items that had been marked down from $7 to $4. Worse, there were full copy blocks for every item in the catalog. That is the old-school approach to a sale catalog, wasting a ton of space on products that didn’t sell the first time around.
Look at this sale catalog from Mountain Gear. It is only 32 pages, with a consistent pagination of either 9 or 12 products per page, or roughly 325 products. To me, this format makes sense – if are going to use a catalog for a sale effort in an online world, cram as much product as you can onto the page.
The folks at Mountain Gear are probably scratching their heads at the moment, because several years ago, I critiqued their catalog at their office in Spokane, and accused them of “SKU barfing” – simply throwing as many products on a page as they could, with no differentiation as to which was right for me.
To a certain degree, they still do that with their main catalogs (especially with those pesky carabiners), but they are getting better.
But a sale catalog is different. You are simply trying to push as many sales as you can – and simply get rid of some products – while possibly making a bit of margin. That’s what makes Mountain Gear’s sale catalog so strong – it is packed with products, and there is no wasted space on copy – if the consumer wants more information, they’ll go online.
Bear in mind, this is Mountain Gear’s Anniversary Sale catalog, an annual event which they probably can’t escape. Thus, some of the product is marked for total clearance, and some goes back to full price in two weeks.
That format begs the question of whether a sale catalog is still a viable answer to getting rid of overstocked and poor selling product. Well, the answer of course is “it depends”. Some of our clients continue to do well with sale catalogs, and others struggle. But the one common theme is a comment that Frank Oliver from Gardener’s Supply taught me years ago, that “there are no bad products, only bad prices”. This has become my #1 rule of catalog merchandise.
I started going bald when I was 18. Consequently, I always wear a baseball cap when I’m outside, partly for protection for the sun, partly for vanity. Look at the two offers below. The black and blue hat offer below is from Mountain Gear – $19, and no free shipping unless I spend $59. The hat offer further below (with the big orange one) is from eBay, where I buy all my hats for $3, and $1 shipping, regardless of quantity.
Yes, I’m sure some people will spend $19 ($25 at full price after two weeks) for a cap simply because it has the North Face logo. But you have to be aware of online pricing for commodity products like this when you put them in your catalog, whether it is sale or not.
Conversely – some products just can’t be saved until the price is really low.
I noticed this string of Christmas lights in the Solutions catalog that came last week, marked down from $80 to $40. But the copy states this strand of 24 bulbs requires 4 “D” batteries! Giant bulbs being powered by batteries? Dumb idea, dumb product – especially when I can get a strand of 250 LED Christmas lights at Wal-Mart for $25, which plug in, eliminating batteries.
My guess is that the reason that they were only marked down by 50% is that some merchandiser buyer just can’t bring him/herself yet to lowering the price to $12, which is where they will finally sell.
But here is the best “sale” catalog I’ve seen this year, which I received from Ben Meadows on July 5. The catalog sells products for loggers, surveyors and forestry professionals – basically anyone working in the woods.
You can’t miss the huge 10% off “dot-whack” on the front cover. What really makes this catalog special is it repeats that 10% off call-out on every page – not just every spread, but every page!! Think of all the times you received a catalog, which had a tiny offer on the front cover, which you forgot about by the time you got to page 6. Even if the offer on the cover had been big, you tend to forget about as you get further into the catalog. We always assume that our customers pay as much attention to the cover messages as we do, and that they don’t need further reminders. WRONG! Don’t be discreet. Don’t be subtle. Clobber your customer over the head with messaging like this, especially in sale catalogs. You are competing against online giants that will show no mercy this holiday season.
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by Bill LaPierre
VP – Business Intelligence and Analytics
Datamann – 802-295-6600 x235