December 13, 2006, 12:00 AM

Strategic planning helps Potpourri Group achieve more holiday sales

Meticulous planning is helping Potpourri Group Inc. enjoy more holiday sales. Potpourri’s sales are up by 10% over Christmas 2005, while the average order value has risen by 8% and the mix of customers placing an online order has grown by 18%.

Meticulous planning is helping direct marketer Potpourri Group Inc., which publishes 12 catalogs and operates a dozen web sites, enjoy more holiday sales.

In previous years, Potpourri Group, No. 169 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide to Retail Web Sites, would send out its last holiday e-mail promotion to its opt-in list of more than 2.3 million names before the end of November to ensure that all holidays orders could be processed and shipped.

But in the last year Potpourri, which operates TheStitchery.com, Expressions.com, BackintheSaddle.com, NaturesJewelry.com, NorthStyle.com, ThePyramidCollection.com, Serengeti.com, In theCompanyofDogs.com and other sites, has added a new senior information technology manager and more servers. The company has also updated and expanded its fulfillment center.

As a result, Potpourri is posting more holiday sales with higher tickets and seeing more customers use the web to place an order in lieu of the U.S. Postal Service or by phone. The company is also conducting more e-mail campaigns well into the holiday shopping season. Overall, Potpourri’s holiday sales thus far are up about 10% over Christmas 2005, while the average order value has risen by 8% and the mix of customers placing an online order has grown by 18%

“We’ve been working hard to end some of the limitations we’ve dealt with in previous years,” says president and CEO Jonathan L. Fleischmann. “We improved the infrastructure and made other changes that are enabling us to extend out the time we can run e-mail promotions and still process and fulfill orders in a timely manner.”

This holiday season the company is using more radio and scanning technology to track inventory and expedite order processing, and employing an unidentified outside third-party to pick, pack and ship orders for its Young Explorers` catalog and web site.

“We want to ensure that all the infrastructure changes we’ve made in the last year support customer expectations,” says Fleischmann. “This is the best time of year to sell and we want to make the most of it.”

A good fourth quarter will help Potpourri increase its total web sales by nearly 30% in 2006 to well over $60 million, the company says. For the 2006 holiday season, the web will account for about 38% of Potpourri’s total sales, compared with 32% in 2005. December Internet orders also are exceeding 50% of total orders, the company says. “We will probably wind up processing a similar number of total orders this year, but we are seeing both our print and online shoppers move to higher price points, which is generating significantly higher order values,” says Fleischmann.

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