Case study

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When Orvis introduced The Sporting Tradition catalog three years ago, the fishing and outdoor retailer was looking for a way to give its fall catalog--traditionally devoted to hunting--more popular appeal.

"We decided to try to market the catalog by themes and lifestyles," said Tom Rosenbauer, VP-catalog manager at Orvis. "We divided it into a number of lifestyles, like the upland life. For each section we included the hard-core hunting and fishing goods up front and would ease into the more casual apparel."

Orvis also turned to well-known authors and outdoor experts to write miniessays which appeared throughout the catalog.

The conscious effort to weave clothing and accessories into the catalog--dog beds, luggage and sweaters are shown along with duck calls, decoys and gun cases--has paid off. The Manchester, Vt., retailer, which produces its catalogs in-house, has seen apparel sales increase 30% to 40% with the new catalog format.

"We found that the customers seem to react positively to buying casual clothing and gifts that fit into a lifestyle or a theme," Mr. Rosenbauer said. "I think men in particular do, because men are not as astute apparel shoppers as women and have a harder time putting things together."

While hunting product sales remained the same, fishing rod sales jumped, in part because the catalog culled through the numerous rods the company sells and focused on half a dozen products.

Orvis, which ships approximately 2 million copies of The Sporting Tradition each year, creates two versions of the catalog. One is sent to customers who purchase guns and hunting equipment; the other, which focuses more on apparel and accessories, goes to other Orvis customers and prospective customers.

Orvis, which has 25 retail stores and more than 500 product dealers worldwide, ships approximately 60 million catalogs a year.

"Authenticity is very big in this book," said Mr. Rosenbauer, who credits the catalog's success to the products the company sells and the fishing, hunting and outdoor experience of Orvis' employees. "We live the lifestyle and have a long tradition in the field."

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