November 03, 2009

Chasing Fireflies: A Cataloger Growing In The Teeth Of A Recession

If you are a paying subscriber to the Puget Sound Business Journal, you can access this article about Chasing Fireflies, a Seattle catalog (gasp) kids apparel startup.

This business started three years ago at $0, and ended 2008 at $22 million in annual sales. The article suggests that, after a flat spring, sales are increasing again this fall.

Here's a link to their website. Here's a link to their Facebook presence, full of both negative customer sentiment and the loyalty of 1,600 fans.

Oh, there would be a long line of pundits ready to bash this business, especially in the online marketing and social media community.

  • They use list rental practices to find new customers, a terrible customer experience. FAIL!
  • Their e-mail marketing strategy is not targeted or personalized nearly enough. FAIL!
  • Their website is probably not optimized for search engine optimization. FAIL!
  • They do not have a Twitter presence. FAIL!
  • Their homepage is not optimized for maximum conversion. FAIL!
  • The actually present merchandise via print, in catalogs (gasp), destroying the planet. FAIL!
  • No live chat on the homepage. FAIL!
  • No recommendation engine on the homepage for cross-sell & up-sell. FAIL!
  • No stores, no "bricks 'n clicks" strategy. FAIL!
  • There is no mobile marketing opportunity, no iPhone app. FAIL!
  • They send catalogs without allowing you the right to determine contact frequency. FAIL!
  • They send e-mail campaigns without allowing you the right to determine contact frequency. FAIL!

I'm sure there's a thousand critical business mistakes that I failed to point out.

And yet, their catalog (gasp) business is growing multiple times faster than Forrester's predicted 8% online growth rate this Holiday season.

How is that possible?

Now, clearly, every company can do a better job, heck, every person can do a better job. But something must be executed correctly in order for a catalog (gasp) company to grow in the teeth of The Great Recession. Might a fusion of merchandising and marketing trump simple marketing tactics?