Catalog Success

Entrepreneurs Jim Moritz, 32, and Greg Nieberding, 44, developed the Baby B’Air, a safety vest for babies to wear on airplanes.  After examining many different sales channels, they decided to introduce their product through catalogs. According to Nieberding, “The main advantage of catalogs was we didn’t need retail packaging.”  Also, the baby market, like nearly every other niche market, has many successful catalogs with wide distribution and high sales.  If you have ever been shopping with a baby, you can understand the appeal of baby product catalogs, but also due to the limited space in retail stores and the non-concentrated population of babies, catalogs are one of the few realistic ways of giving consumers the products they need.  This is true with nearly all niche groups, for instance, there might be 3 million silent film enthusiasts in the U.S., but they would be dispersed through out the country.  A catalog might be one of the only ways to reach an audience interested in silent film products.

Nieberding and Moritz got their initial list of catalogs by simply asking moms which catalogs they received. Says Moritz, “Once we had the catalog names, we just kept contacting them. Our product was unique and had a useful benefit, so the catalogs were ready to give it a try.”

Some of the catalogs they sell in include Bye, Bye Baby; One Step Ahead; and the Right Start Catalog. But although the catalog option opens doors for inventors, you won’t succeed unless you’re able to keep your commitments. Cautions Moritz: “You can’t afford to miss a delivery date. The catalogs have a big expense including your product in the catalog, and they expect your product to be there when their customer orders.”

Then Nieberding and Moritz took their success with catalogs and went to the Juvenile Products Manufacturer Association (JPMA) trade show.  At their first JPMA show, Nieberding and Moritz didn’t sell to many retailers but instead took time to get the lay of the land. Says Moritz, “We met a lot of other small manufacturers, learned lots of marketing information and found out which customers we could trust.”

At its second JMPA show appearance in 2000, Baby B’Air started to pick up more retail store orders. Today, the product is carried by independent baby stores nationwide and Babies “R” Us.

Using their success in catalogs greatly helped the Baby B’Air’s success at their second JMPA show.  By being able to show that their product was already selling in one market, retailers were able to take their product with more confidence.  Another huge benefit of having sold in catalogs is that retailers know that you can take and fill orders in a timely and professional manner and that your company already has some staying power.  Most inventors don’t realize how this is a real concern with retailers.  I have met many retail buyers who won’t buy from inventors until they call or write five times, just to make sure they have staying power.  Once this confidence is gained, your sales will be much easier.

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