Friday, January 05, 2001
You've read the book, now see the store
Catalogs move from the mailbox to the mall
By Lisa Biank Fasig
The Cincinnati Enquirer
We've heard of bricks and clicks, but how about books and mortar?
While some of the nation's largest, most venerated retailers are learning the ropes of selling merchandise online or through catalog, a growing number of catalog merchants are doing the opposite opening stores.
This role reversal is encouraged by the same reasons Macy's and Nordstrom launched online stores and expanded their catalogs. Despite the challenges, the popular belief is that retailers selling through several channels store, catalog and Internet are better positioned to meet consumers' needs.
Frontgate opened its West Chester outlet last fall.|
([name of photographer] photo)
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I think what they're going after here is incremental growth, said William Dean, publisher of the San Francisco-based catalog newsletter the Dean Report. What better way to maximize sales in this multichannel world than to build stores?
Locally, luxury catalog company Frontgate in November opened its Frontgate Showroom and an outlets in West Chester, replacing an outlet store in Harper's Station. Nationally, L.L. Bean, J. Jill and Coldwater Creek and others have begun opening new stores in the past year or two some in Cincinnati.
We want to provide a place where our customers particularly our customers who are also our neighbors can actually pick up and feel and see our merchandise, said Daniel Lally, director of public relation for Frontgate. This is the only place in the world where you can see this merchandise right next to each other in person.
The advantage is that catalogers are very effective in building brands look how popular paperback selling made Pottery Barn. Catalogers build stores in markets where they already sell a lot of merchandise, so by the time the store opens think locally of Sur La Table and Coldwater Creek the market knows them.
Catalogers that already have a consumer base and already have that brand loyalty are reaching into that area to make it more convenient for consumers, said Christina Duffney, spokeswoman for the Direct Marketing Association.
That doesn't mean catalogs open stores challenge-free. Stores are a lot different to operate from catalogs. They require a different form of management, of merchandising, and they cost more to build.
Our two biggest challenges were to effectively recreate the brand image in the real world, which we worked very hard to do, said David Gunter, spokesman for Coldwater Creek, which opened in Norwood's Rookwood Commons in August. But when you get down to it, it's the caliber of the (workers) you attract.
Yet there is strong motivation to transform paper into brick. Mr. Gunter said that his research shows 87 percent of women's apparel sales in 1999 were generated from traditional stores that's a whopping slice of the retail pie.
For Frontgate, opening its Frontgate Showroom store was a matter of marketing, and convenience. At the West Chester store, shoppers can for the first time buy the same household and personal items in the catalog. The separate, outlet store sells overstocked, scratch-and-dent and returned items.
But Frontgate, like many other catalogers, doesn't plan to make stores the core of the business. For most catalog merchants, stores are a way to grow sales, even drive shoppers to the catalogs.
As Mr. Dean put it: The survivors in the long-run will sell through many channels.
Even among people who shop catalogs, he said, they spend more of their money in stores.
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