Lands’ End campaign targets Canadians

One of the best-known names in the huge u.s. catalogue business plans to turn the receptive but much underdeveloped Canadian catalogue market into a source of new customers and at the same time raise those customers' awareness of buying from direct...

One of the best-known names in the huge u.s. catalogue business plans to turn the receptive but much underdeveloped Canadian catalogue market into a source of new customers and at the same time raise those customers’ awareness of buying from direct mail houses.

Lands’ End, whose headquarters – about 2 1/2 hours’ drive from Chicago – and one million-square-foot warehouse are set among the rolling dairy farming hills of Dodgeville, Wis., has under way from now through the fall its most significant advertising campaign yet to convince Canadians of the advantages of shopping by catalogue.

Stephen Miles, Canadian operations manager for Lands’ End, says in an interview from Dodgeville that from now until Nov. 30 company advertising will appear in 30 publications including such recognized titles as Harrowsmith, Canadian Geographic, Canadian Yachting, Canadian Living, Cottage Life, Report on Business Magazine, Canadian Gardening, and Up Here, published in Yellowknife, n.w.t.

‘This is an investment,’ Miles says. ‘As in any business, in trying to grow not only our share of the market, but also to grow the market [investment is required.]‘

Also, says Miles, a Canadian who moved to Dodgeville 12 weeks ago from Toronto’s Regal Greetings & Gift where he headed its Disney catalogue operations, Lands’ End has scheduled ‘a huge research effort’ in January to find out as much as it can on Canadians and catalogue shopping.

Miles says Canadians have always been a good market for Lands’ End clothing, luggage and bed and bath furnishings, and the company has advertised here in ‘decent volume’ for three years along with some of the other catalogue operators.

Cost-effective

‘Canada’s a very good opportunity,’ Miles says. ‘Seventy per cent of the population speaks the same language as the u.s., and, geographically, they’re very close, therefore it’s very cost-effective to market and mail to Canada.

‘And the response rate and the response from the market is very good,’ he says.

As Miles says, the Canadian catalogue shopping market is nowhere near as developed – or as lucrative – as that in the u.s. and some other countries.

For example, says Miles, only 12% of Canadians have bought something from a catalogue compared with 50% of Americans, Germans and Britons who have bought goods this way.

Although there are more than 600 catalogues produced for and by Canadians, Miles says these tend to be directed at highly specialized niche markets, or to buyers of seeds and plants.

The best-known Canadian catalogue came from the Eaton’s department store chain but was cancelled several years ago.

However, as those in the catalogue business point out, that catalogue, like others from Canadian Tire, Sears Canada, Consumer’s Distributing, are not direct mail catalogues but provide an informational window for in-store buying.

‘The way Lands’ End is looking at it, the way I would look at it, Canada’s a huge opportunity,’ Miles says.

‘But the opportunity is not just to go in there and steal someone else’s customers or to grab market share, but, in fact, to grow the whole market.

Speculative

‘If 80-odd% of Canadians do not consider themselves catalogue shoppers, there’s a huge opportunity to convert those people.’

Miles, who notes it is somewhat speculative, says, nevertheless, the demographics of North America will favor mail order shopping and companies which are service-oriented such as his own.

‘I’m not sure whether it’s strictly age, or whether it’s just life’s pace in general,’ he says. ‘People don’t have as much time. People don’t spend three or four hours browsing through a mall.’

John Gustavson, president of the Canadian Direct Marketing Association, suggests several factors are driving Canadian consumers towards catalogue shopping.

The first of these are societal, Gustavson says.

There are two working parent families who find it convenient to go through a catalogue to shop after the children are in bed.

And then there are single parent households which find it less time-consuming.

Also, Gustavson says there have been some regulatory changes by the federal government that has made catalogue shopping from u.s.-based operations much easier.

These changes came at the urging of Sears Canada and others.

On July 1, the federal government began the strict enforcement of duty collection on merchandise bought from u.s. cataloguers. As well, Ottawa dropped the ceiling on which catalogue items were gst-exempt to $20 from $40.

Before that, on June 7 this year, Lands’ End began adding duty and the gst to the purchase price of its goods when an order from Canada was placed.

This means Lands’ End customers no longer have to pay duty and gst to Canada Post, which collected it on Ottawa’s behalf.

It also means since Canada Post is no longer an acting tax collector it has stopped charging customers of u.s. catalogues a $5 package processing fee.

One further irritant for u.s. catalogue operators selling to Canadians has also been eliminated.

Lands’ End, for example, now has its Canadian customers ship any unwanted or returned goods to a Canadian address, freeing the customer from filling in a Revenue Canada form to get back the duty and the gst already paid.

A broker working for Lands’ End actually ships the returns across the border.

Robert Massoud, manager of direct marketing at Consumer’s Distributing, says he is not concerned about Lands’ End’s push into this country since his firm and the u.s. one do not compete.

‘It’s actually a help rather than a competitor,’ says Massoud, who notes Lands’ End’s increased presence will raise the level of awareness of catalogue buying.

And there is certainly a lot of awareness to be raised, if recent figures are anything to go by.

Miles says from sleepy Dodgeville, population 3,882, Lands’ End sells US$750 million worth of merchandise, 70% of it to women.

In Canada, by way of contrast, the Canadian Direct Marketing Association says soon-to-be-released figures report direct marketing sales for the entire country have dipped below the $2 billion mark.