June 19, 2016

A Strange Year For Catalogers

Lots of information in the past few months.
  • For many, terrible business results, especially in customer acquisition.
  • For some, very good business results - so you can't blame "the election" or "economic headwinds" for any downturn in business. At all. Don't even try. Why would other companies experience so much success if external factors were to blame?
  • A significant number of leaders preparing to sell catalog brands. Got a LinkedIn request last week signaling yet another case where this is going to happen.
  • Catalog brands being shuttered.
  • Retail brands shuttering catalogs.
  • Online brands firing-up catalogs. Remember, just because Wayfair has a catalog doesn't mean catalogs are rallying ... it is far more likely that Wayfair (and other online brands) are running out of new customers or ways to monetize existing buyers. Talk to folks at online brands, they'll tell you what's up.
  • Catalog brands being reorganized (some of you have been peppering me with thoughts about Orchard Brands as an example).
  • Across-the-board downturn in co-op performance ... something that is routinely talked about privately but almost nobody will say anything about publicly.
  • Employee fear. This is pretty common, and I understand the fear.
Here's the interesting thing, folks. Catalogers don't really compete with each other anymore. That ended back in 2005ish when all catalogers participated in all co-ops, openly sharing all names with each other. You cannot compete with each other when your success depends upon the success of somebody else. Vermont Country Store needs Blair, Blair needs Oriental Trading Company, Oriental Trading Company needs In The Company of Dogs. Nobody will talk about this fact, but the fact is 100% true.

For the rest of this week, I am going to discuss a new thesis ... the shared Catalog Brand Ecosystem you all participate in. You are not competing with each other. If anything, you are a loose federation of brands that compete against the Online Brand Ecosystem and the Mobile Ecosystem. And here's the good part ... you've already won the battle. The Online Brand Ecosystem doesn't want your customer base (#tooold). The Mobile Ecosystem doesn't want your customer base (#grandparents). You own your customer base (customers > age 55). It's all yours!!! What a huge advantage you have.

So if you own your customer base, then your success / failure is fully dependent upon you ... you and the other brands in the Catalog Brand Ecosystem. As a result, co-op performance has nothing to do with co-ops anymore ... it has everything to do with you. If co-ops don't work well anymore, it's because of a core issue with the Catalog Brand Ecosystem you participate in - your business dynamics are driving down co-op performance.

The problems can be fixed. You can do this!!

We'll address this topic tomorrow.