Once Upon a Serviette… 02/16/94

February 9th, 1994 may be remembered around much of Canada as one of the coldest days in history, but there are nine people who might also remember it as the date when, five years ago, they attended the first ever meeting of the Canadian Catalogue Council Executive.

In actual fact, it all began several months earlier when David Taylor, then chairman of Taylor Tarpey Direct Advertising, and Barbara Canning Brown, then director of marketing at Regal Greetings & Gifts, met for lunch. Who knows how some conversations begin or how many good ideas start out as scribbles on paper serviettes, but that’s just how it happened! In talking, during that lunch, about how many catalogues there might be in Canada, David and Barbara came up with a list of 50 significant catalogue businesses and, from there, the idea of forming a special interest group within CDMA to service cataloguers’ needs took shape.

With the help of Steve Gilpin, then a consultant with The Telemedia Results Group. a proposal to form the Council was submitted to the CDMA Board of Directors.

The February, 1989 issue of the Communicator newsletter announced the good news…”The Board of Directors of the CDMA has approved the formation of a Canadian Catalogue Council with a mandate to serve this fast-growing segment of our industry.” The rest, as they say, is history! And, an activity-packed history it’s been.

Given the board sanction, an Council Executive Committee was formed. As well as Barbara, the Council’s first chairmen, David, and Steve, in attendance at that first February meeting were Tony Gilroy then with CDMA staff, Peter Hill from Moore Business Products, Terry Jukes from Microbits, Paul Parr from Litho Plus, Sandy McDonald from Regal and Janice Partington from Consumers Distributing.

Being good marketers all, one of the first decisions reached was to research the “market” and find out what potential Council members would want in the way of events and services. Over the next few months a list of 450 Canadian cataloguers was builtĀ  and, at the 1989 CDMA annual convention in Vancouver the fledgling council took flight . Response to the first research survey had indicated a very high interest level on the part of 60% of responders. Guided by the survey response, the Executive Committee proceeded to plan quarterly events such as the, now annual, half-day seminar and dinner. “Catalogue Council Launch Seminar Sold Out” was the follow-up headline.

The Council went on to formulate a code of ethics and standards of practice for Canadian cataloguers. The first comprehensive research of the Canadian catalogue industry was conducted with the assistance of the council. Participation in lobbying efforts has led to a more level playing field between the U.S. and Canada for Canadian mailers and council activities have helped increase attention to environmental and privacy issues in the industry. Successful seminars have been held in Montreal, Vancouver and Ottawa in keeping with the Council’s objective to have national focus.

Over the years, the roster of seminar speakers reads like the Who’s Who of catalogue marketing…Katie Muldoon–U.S. guru and author, Lawrence Grodecki of A.E. McKenzie, Robert Cameron from Revere Seton, Don Sexton, now general manager of Rockwood Gardens, Anders Ourom of Mountain Equipment Co-op, Leonard Lee, owner of Lee Valley Tools, Tricia Eaton from Patagonia, Clair Karnofski of Eddie Bauer, Allan Neuman from Seventh Generation, Harold Swartz, president of Joan Cook, Jack Shmid, leader of the annual workshop for several years…and many more.

From the beginning, the council’s success has been founded on the dedicated interest and attendance of its membership. Plus, all along the way has come many hours of donated production time and generous sponsorship dollars from industry suppliers and service providers without whose willing support the Council would not have earned its reputation, for several years, as the only profitable council!

Today, under the energetic leadership of chairman, Alain Doucet, the Council Executive continues to meet on a regular monthly basis (That’s been 60 meetings in five years, give or take a couple!) to plan up-coming events, discuss current issues and help guide the future of cataloguing in Canada.

All in all, not a bad record for having started from scribbles on a humble serviette!

Charles de Gruchy remembers the way it was

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