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Levi Strauss & Co. has sent a mail-order catalog to approximately 100,000 customers and prospective customers, a first major foray into traditional direct marketing for the jeans marketer.

Levi Strauss is not the only apparel marketer making a push into mail order: Banana Republic is retracing its roots, launching its first catalog in 10 years.

Banana Republic, acquired by the Gap in 1983, began as a catalog marketer in 1978. The company moved away from catalog selling in 1988. Over time, it grew into its present retail approach.

Its 100-page catalog, developed in-house, targets both men and women and also contains 10 pages devoted to home products.


The Levi's catalog, executed by its relationship-marketing agency, Miller Huber Relationship Marketing, San Francisco, may signal a modern approach to catalog selling; the 26 pages contain no order form. Instead, an 800-number is featured prominently on nearly every page of merchandise, which includes jeans, khakis, shirts and T-shirts. Outerwear includes leather jackets; accessories include watches and hats.

"The strategy for us was not only to make it as appealing and credible as possible, but to also show our apparel as part of a collection," said Brad Williams, marketing manager of Levi Strauss USA. "It's a chance for us to tighten our consumer focus a bit. We want to get closer to the consumer."

The catalog's sensibility appears edgy -- the cover features an X-ray of the right front pocket of a pair of the marketer's classic blue jeans, with the inset "fifth pocket" clearly containing a condom encased in its wrapper.

A perforated business reply card with a questionnaire encourages consumers to rate the catalog, to beef up the company's database of customer information.

"They've had other direct-to-consumer activities that culminated in this catalog," said Floyd Miller, Miller Huber president. "This is the first broad-scope undertaking in terms of mail order."


Mr. Miller said the tactic goes beyond moving product.

"We're using the catalog to develop one-to-many communications," he said. "Catalogs have been around for years and years, and for the most part have taken an approach similar to mass marketing: The more you can put in the catalog, the better chance you have of finding a consumer who wants to buy. It's a numbers game.

"With a better understanding of our client's segments, we can build a catalog that delivers on the customers' needs in a more targeted way. It's developed from the customer's point of view rather than the brand point of view."


The target for the Levi's catalog seems to be teen-agers and twentysomethings, based on the look of the catalog and the style of the merchandise. Teen catalogs, particularly those targeting young girls, are a growing category, with new entrants such as Just Nikki, Airshop and Zoe in the past 12 months alone.

"The bottom line is that companies are realizing they need custody of the consumer," said Scott Galloway a consultant at Prophet Brand Strategy, which does work for Levi's.

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