May 2, 2011 – Watercraft Superstore turns to catalog approach

Aftermarket giant WaterCraft SuperStore has just released the company’s newest catalog, a 192-page effort that includes the somewhat unique use of editorial content mixed with the normal page after page of product. This is the third catalog released by WCSS, and each has grown substantially over the previous effort.
Print Lives
In an era dominated by the rapid expansion of the Internet, a print catalog may seem like a step backward, but according to WCSS’s John Salvatore, it’s keeping with the company’s philosophy, part of which springs from its family relationship with engine re-manufacturer and parts supply house SBT.
“We actually decided that early on in the company,” said Salvatore of the decision to embrace print. “In talking to customers, and of course with SBT doing a print catalog for years to their dealers, it was always so well received we thought it was something that we’d try.”
Certainly, print has its strengths. Numerous high-profile catalogs continue to thrive, from apparel brands like Victoria’s Secret to big players within the broader boating industry.
“It’s easier to browse and shop from a catalog than it is to browse online,” suggests Salvatore. “It’s very convenient to buy online but not as easy to shop online. And we took it from our own experience. Everyone we know likes to get catalogs.”
The current “cata-zine,” which includes a magazine-like cover touting a PWC of the Year selection inside, as well as travel, refurb and technical articles, began as a 16-page newsletter three years ago, and it was distributed to a mailing list of 100,000. Last year it grew into a more conventional catalog that mailed to 500,000. While each mailing received what Salvatore deems an excellent response, for the 2011 effort the company decided to expand the project even further, but more closely target who it mailed to. Using the customer database from both WCSS and SBT, as well as the same industry resources used by magazine publishers, the mailing list was pared to 150,000, pre-qualified consumers.
Says Salvatore: “The people who are getting it this year are existing customers of ours and SBTs, or people who have purchased a PWC sometime in the last four years.”
Big Effort
Obviously, a 192-page catalog with 11 editorial sections is a far bigger undertaking than the previous catalogs, which in themselves were pretty large efforts from an industry player. It resulted in WCSS dedicating several people to the project for months.
“The thing that made it the most difficult was switching from just a pure catalog to a catalog/magazine combination,” continued Salvatore. “That was something we hadn’t done in the past. It meant coming up with ideas for articles, getting the content, figuring out a layout that would flow nicely. This year, because of the articles, we actually had a few projects to undertake as well, which meant additional staff.
“On the flip side, however, three years into this, the art portion of it is getting easier as we go. We’ve got more experience under our belt now.”
In addition to the initial mailing list, the company will also place a catalog in every shipment that leaves both WCSS and SBT over the next year. Links to request a catalog will be placed on the company websites, as well as Facebook pages.
As to the obvious magazine slant to nearly all of the content, Salvatore says there were a number of factors that weighed into the decision.
“It’s a combination of things,” he said. “With there being no PWC magazines really left in our industry, we think there’s a void. We think people still do really like to get a magazine and read articles, see what’s new and what’s coming up in an industry in which they’re an enthusiast. Another was to be able to bring people information and show them things on the technical side, like with the refurbishing story, how easy it really is to bring their ski back to life.
“Finally, by having some content and some meat to the book, we think that people might be more likely to keep it around for a while.”
That magazine-like format even goes so far as to include advertising, much of it from other industry members. According to Salvatore, the decision was made rather late in production, after an industry player brought to the company’s attention the fact that there weren’t really any remaining outlets for companies to place advertisements in. WCSS freed up some space to do a “trial run” for a few select advertisers (both Sea-Doo and Yamaha are in the book, as are the AWA, Liquid Militia and SportPort);
Salvatore indicates the next issue will likely include even more advertising space.
“Magazines need advertising dollars to stay afloat, and a book such as ours doesn’t,” suggests Salvatore. “To add the content certainly adds cost, but the support comes from the catalog.” PSB

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