January 3, 2011, 3:01 PM

Frederick’s begins pulling the plug on full-size catalogs

Frederick’s of Hollywood joins the list of retailers replacing big catalogs with more niche books.

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Multichannel intimate apparel merchant Frederick’s of Hollywood Inc. has joined the list of retailers replacing their full-size catalogs with more niche-oriented direct marketing books.

In its recently released first quarter earnings report filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Frederick’s, No. 251 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, says it will use the last two quarters of fiscal 2011 to phase out publishing full-size catalogs, which are currently printed and mailed about four times per year. Instead Frederick’s will publish more niche-oriented direct marketing books it calls “persona books.”

“We have been steadily reducing catalog circulation after testing various cost-effective alternatives such as targeted e-mails, postcards and smaller-sized catalogs called persona books that are more personalized and tailored to the recipients’ purchasing behaviors,” Frederick’s says. “We expect to replace all of our full-sized catalogs with persona books beginning in the third quarter of fiscal 2011.”

Fredericks is phasing out full-sized catalogs as its publications have become direct marketing vehicles for driving web and store traffic, the retailer says. “Our catalog operations have been evolving over the past few years to serve as a medium to drive traffic to our web site and stores rather than as a revenue generator,” Fredericks says.

In fiscal 2010, Frederick’s mailed about 15.3 million catalogs, but only plans to mail about 13 million this year, a decrease of 15%, the retailer says. In its fiscal 2010 annual report, Frederick’s also reduced its catalog operating expenses by $2.1 million, but didn’t break more specific numbers.

Frederick’s is among the recent ranks of retailers to reduce printing and mailing full-sized catalogs. In September, J.C. Penney Co. Inc. (No. 16) said this year it will cease publishing about 25 other specialty catalogs.

By printing fewer catalogs, Frederick’s, which began operating on a new e-commerce platform from Demandware Inc. in 2009, will devote more resources to building up its web infrastructure. “During fiscal year 2011, we also are focused on increasing visitors’ time spent on the web site by further enhancing functionality and content, and improving the customer experience through initiatives such as customer product reviews, mobile-friendly site access and adding rich media to provide customers with more robust product views,” the retailer says.

In the first quarter of fiscal 2011 ended Oct. 30, Frederick’s reported:

  • A decrease in direct sales, which include catalog and web, of 5.6% to $10.1 million from $10.7 million in the first quarter of fiscal 2010.
  • Total sales dropped year over year 8% to $28.6 million from $31.1 million.
  • Store sales declined 9.8% to $18.4 million from $20.4 million in the first quarter of fiscal 2010.
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