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SAM'S CLUB HOLIDAY FORAY MAIL-ORDER FOOD CATALOG MAKES DEBUT

By Published on .

Sam's Club is jumping into the mail-order business with a discount holiday foods catalog that could take a chunk out of the $2 billion market.

Sam's Club Gift Express, the company's first mail-order venture, features a wide assortment of gourmet gifts and specialty food merchandise at prices 30% to 40% below competing catalogs like Harry & David and Omaha Steaks. The mailing to 8 million individual and business consumers offers volume discounts and a 200% guarantee, meaning dissatisfied customers get their money back and a free gift.

"We are going after the catalog market and hitting a segment the clubs haven't covered," said Adam da'Costa, Sam's Club VP-divisional merchandising manager for perishables.

Besides building business, the catalog is an opportunity for the Wal-Mart Stores division to build membership. Sam's Club is already the leading membership warehouse chain.

Sam's Club Gift Express stands out among other catalogs not only for its value focus but for its broader assortment-from fresh meats, to gift baskets, to monthly fruit gifts, Mr. da'Costa said.

Whether Sam's value weapon will rock or even shake the catalog industry will depend on the caliber of customer service.

"There's more to cataloging than just price," said Katie Muldoon, president of Muldoon & Baer, a New York direct marketing catalog consultancy. "Catalogs set the standard for service today. If Sam's can provide both price and quality of service, then obviously they have the potential to take share from people competing in the same product lines."

Sam's Club is considering a second effort for spring or summer.

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