I can’t believe how quickly time passes. The year is zipping by, and when you have specific goals and deadlines, things seem to go even faster. I’m just looking at the calendar and I realized that we’re only about two weeks away from our next catalog landing in your mailboxes. That means that you’ve got about 8 weeks of special deals to help you save money. You’ll be receiving 68 pages of new products, interesting information and of course, a whole lot of bargains. What does it mean to us? It means that it’s time for us to get working on the next catalog, which will be our holiday edition, and it will be even bigger. There’s a lot more that goes into these full-color catalogs than you might expect, so I’ll give you a little behind-the-scenes sketch.
At the end of every calendar year, our marketing people determine how many catalogs we’ll do in the upcoming year, and how large they’ll be. Then they specify when each one will be mailed out. That’s the point we use to figure out when we have to start working on the content. It takes about three months from the time we begin an edition until it lands in your hands, but it starts coming together even before that.
Eric does most of the buying for P&C, but he takes a different approach than a lot of purchasers. Over the years, I’ve worked with a lot of people who have done purchasing over the years, and most of them just look at stock levels and place orders. Not Eric. He takes a lot of pride in finding bargains and working deals so he can offer specials for emails and our catalogs. We were recently offered some nice pipes at a pretty good price. The line was being discontinued, and the manufacturer was looking to clear out his inventory. Eric liked the pipes, but he wanted to be able to offer them at a really spectacular price. So what did he do? He offered to take the entirety of their remaining stock if they would shave a little more off the price, and they agreed. You’ll see them in a future catalog, and you won’t believe the value.
When we start to build a new issue, we begin by picking the products and setting up the special offers. Our design department then develops the layout of the book. Then, they have to request photographs and copy. Kevin does most of the write-ups for pipes and samplers, Cole works on the cigars, and I handle pipe tobaccos and accessories. As the elements come together, an outline of the book takes shape. Early proofs are circulated so we can catch errors and to make suggestions to improve the appearance and readability. Corrections are made and further proofs are passed around. Toward the end of the process, we have a meeting where folks from marketing, merchandising, design and administration all review the final (or nearly final) drafts. Shortly thereafter, the catalog is ready to be sent to the printer.
Because things look differently on a screen than they do in print, we often have to adjust colors, fonts and other elements after we’ve printed out the internal proofs. When the printer gets the pages, they print proofs as well, because things will look differently printed on their presses than they do on our printers. This gives us a chance to make changes if needed before the issue is run. Then, the catalogs are ready to ship.
We began by sending you four issues a year, and they weren’t all that thick. The amount of pages grew and grew, and we expanded to six editions this year. Your reaction to the catalogs has been so positive that we’ll be increasing the number of issues again, and the books will probably get a little thicker as well. They’re a lot of work and they’re produced by a bunch of people, but when we see how you’ve responded, we feel that the effort is worth it.