Increase Your Sales...Increase Your Page Count
By: Steve Lett
Approximately four years ago, the United States Postal Service (USPS) increased the maximum weight limitation for piece rate catalogs from 3.3 to 4.0 ounces. This was a significant event for catalogers. Why was this such a big deal? It meant that catalogers could circulate more pages without increasing their postage costs (typically 50% to 60% of the total cost to print and mail a catalog).
Back then, the cut-off depending on paper weight and trim size was approximately 60 pages to come in weighing 3.3 ounces or less. Current, an 80-page catalog will still qualify at the postal piece rate if it weights 4.0 ounces or less. That means a cataloger can circulate approximately 20 more pages without incurring any additional postage cost. Adding pages without increasing postage costs will leverage direct selling expenses helping to maximize contribution to profit and overhead. The incremental cost of adding more pages is minimal considering the increased revenue and ROI (return on investment). My examples are based on 34 lb., body paper with a heavier cover. Obviously, the maximum page counts can vary slightly depending on trim size and basis weight of paper.
What can you expect in return for adding pages to your catalog? Page count does make a difference when it comes to maximizing the response rate. Any increase in page count (up to a point) will increase response and therefore sales. Our formula: Sales will increase by approximately one-half the percent increase in page count. For example, a 20% increase in pages will increase sales by approximately 10% as a general rule of thumb. There is a favorable relationship between the incremental costs of adding pages vs. the actual return. Pages generate a high ROI. For example, increasing page count from 52 to 60 pages (+8 pages) yields a 15.4% increase in the number of square inches of selling space. Gross demand revenue should increase approximately 7.5% as a result. If your catalog weights more than 4.0 ounces, the incremental increase in postage will be marginal if you add additional pages.
Adding pages means maintaining the proper page density. It does not mean that you should devote more space to the items being added. Nor does it mean that you should give more space to existing products simply as a way to fill more pages. For the economics to work, proper density must be maintained as page count is increased. If you typically put eight items on a page, maintain that same product density. Often when pages are added, there is a tendency to want to promote “the brand” vs. selling merchandise. Keep in mind that every page in the catalog except for the front cover should generate measurable sales and contribution to profit and overhead.
Don’t take a leap of faith and increase page count to the max without first testing our theory. Best to increase in 8-page increments until you reach the weight limit of 4.0 ounces. If you want to grow, the best strategy is to increase page count (and the number of SKU’s) even if you do not increase circulation. If you can increase page count and circulation together, it’s a win-win if done properly.
What is your strategy for growth?
Stephen R. Lett is the Founder and Chairman of Lett Direct, Inc., a catalog consulting firm specializing in circulation planning, forecasting, digital marketing and analysis since 1995. Mr. Lett spent the first 25 years of his career with leading catalog companies; both business-to-business and consumer. He is the author of a book, Strategic Catalog Marketing. He can be reached at 302-539-7257 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.