Mary Beth West has been on the retailer’s board for 10 years.
The Internet is helping the 76 year-old brand find a younger market, diversify and reduce its call center costs.
The Internet is playing a key role in helping a 76 year-old brand add a younger demographic to its catalog base and diversify its offerings, Hans Bernet, e-commerce development manger at Monroe, WI-based The Swiss Colony Inc., tells Internet Retailer.
In recent weeks, The Swiss Colony has relaunched web sites for three of its existing seven catalog brands, including its flagship gift food catalog The Swiss colony, and home goods and apparel catalogs Midnight Velvet and Seventh Avenue. Swiss Colony, which has offered a catalog since 1926, originally launched its web site in 1997, while Seventh Avenue, a 20-year old catalog that was the company’s first move into non-food product categories, went online in 1999 and Midnight Velvet in 2000. All three were relaunched on Multimedia Live’s MarketLive e-commerce platform. The switch has given the cataloger greater ability to market online and merchandise on the site, including the segmentation of customers, offers and messages and the tracking of response, Bernet says.
More than 15% of the three brands’ sales, on average, are now on the web, and that number is climbing. “We’ve found that the longer a catalog has a site, the higher the percentage of Internet orders,” Bernet says. “People tend to gravitate away from mail and usually also away from the phone.” That’s particularly true of a younger demographic, he adds, and one reason the cataloger has launched web sites for all its brands.
“Swiss Colony is a name that rings a bell. People 50 and older know it because, if nothing else, their parents got the catalog. But from a demographic standpoint we have to move to a younger market and that`s one of the things the Internet does.”
Bernet didn’t disclose the volume of incremental sales from the web, but says the web`s larger contribution has been as an alternate and lower-cost ordering mechanism for catalog shoppers. “The vast majority of people who come to the site have or have had a catalog from the company. The catalog is the main driver to the site, and we’ve satisfied ourselves that we save a fair amount by taking orders over the Internet.”
Total sales across all brands and channels at the privately held The Swiss Colony have been estimated at $400 million annually.