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November 10, 1995

NO SUBSTITUTE FOR CATALOGUES IF YOU WANT TO MAKE A SUCCESS OF MAIL ORDER SALES

By CBR Staff Writer

Catalogues are by far the best medium for a successful mail order business, although off-the-page magazine advertising is useful for building up a database of client names, said participants at the EuroChannels ’95 conference earlier this month. The response rates for catalogues are six or seven times higher than off-the-page, making off-the-page a very expensive means to trawl for customers, said Jeffrey Sheahan, vice-president of European operations for MicroWarehouse Inc. But, in the early days, we use off-the-page and then move away from it to catalogue, as we did between 1987 to 1990 in the US. So, being the new kid on the block in Europe, we have been using off-the-page as an aggressive marketing tool to build a database. Harry Aerts, general manager for Inmac BV, Europe’s largest mail-order company, also said his three controlled-circulation segmented catalogues (hardware, software, communications) get a higher return from them than from off-the-page. Although both companies publish the same product sets across European countries, Sheahan and Aerts agreed that the UK has the highest response rates, followed by Holland at Inmac. Aerts noted further that The UK is price-driven more than anything else, whereas France is brand-driven and Germany falls somewhere between the two. He added that price differences between countries are shrinking; they vary by between 8% to 15%. Catalogue customers are also more loyal and less likely to return products. One vendor participant said its lowest rate of return is from the catalogue channel. High catalogue frequency is important as well. MicroWarehouse publishes catalogues once a month in Europe, and between 18 to 24 times a year in the US, and does

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