A theme running throughout all the sessions on Thursday at the annual NEMOA spring conference in Boston was consistency. Speakers stressed keeping your brand and your value proposition consistent, no matter what the channel—retail, Web or catalog.
The same idea holds true for merchandising, noted Jim Alexander, principal of Alexander & Co. LLC. When the holidays roll around, he implored, avoid what he called the “Christmas nightmare.”
These 24/7 night terrors are the type caused by deciding to load up your holiday catalog with items you’ve never offered before, in an effort to lure in gift buyers. These products will likely only alienate your core customer. And, when those who did buy gifts from you receive your next catalog in the spring – with a more typical product mix from your brand – they’ll wonder about the absence of the gift selection.
“Resist the urge,” said Alexander, who offered a number of merchandising tips.
For example, it’s important to have price compatibility between product categories—if prices are out of whack it will cause customer disconnect. As Alexander noted, a woman who buys a $300 dress isn’t likely to buy $50 shoes.
In the 1970s to mid 1980s, the typical number of photos showcasing product in a catalog was 120 to 150. Today, that number is 250 to 400. This, he says, is attributable to increased retail competition, and the rising cost of operating a catalog.
Alexander told attendees he feels the Internet is a better place to offer sale and closeout items. But, he lamented the state of online creative in e-commerce. Catalogers in print are masters of design, copy writing and picking “hero” products to showcase. Where is that creative flair online, he said, noting the vast majority of e-commerce sites feature too many pages that are just simply filled with boring thumbnails of products.