Help with Catalog Construction

brian_zn_5_ks(N.E. Kansas)February 22, 2005

Altho way too late to do anything about it this spring, I'd like to have some information about putting together a catalog for a retail garden center. Is there some useful software available for the formatting involved? What does it entail? Any ball park figures for publishing costs? Experiences, good or bad, with such a venture?

If I can get it thru the thick head of upper management that this is indeed a worthwhile marketing endeavor, it would give me yet another useful project for next winter.



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Hi Brian
We do ours on Microsoft Access, tailored for us over a period of several months by a friend. Our program allows us to input all material for ordering, inventory, tags, pots, propagation, signs (including pictures) and especially, the catalogue.
Last year, when producing our first catalogue, we required almost 2 weeks of our friend's time during production. This year, we telephoned him twice to handle glitches, but otherwise did not require his services. He comes by every few months to make sure the program is working the way we need it to.
I'm not very savvy with computers, but if you're doing a catalogue only, wouldn't Microsoft Word or Microsoft Publisher do it for you?

    Bookmark   February 22, 2005 at 11:12AM
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I would have to agree with Nina. MS Publisher works very well for catalogs, ect by enabling the user to place objects anywhere on the page without MS Words tabs, returns and other hidden chars placed on the page. MS access is a relational database that can have a programmed GUI interface. Access works great for almost any data storage. It also lets you add pictures and other bells and whistles that Publisher will not. MS Access requires programming skills to develop and maintain the database. These are the least expensive options out there but there are professional applications to. You wonÂt find them at Staples! As I always tell the wife. I can spend $100.00 for this project or a $1000.00.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2005 at 12:42PM
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Regardless of the program(s) you use to build your catalog on your system, you still have to present it to a printer in a way that their machine can handle. A document built on your computer and saved on a disk and then handed to a printing firm will not always display correctly on their system. Its the nature of the beast. Everyone doesn't run the same software and use the same hardware. If you have plenty of time the kinks can be worked out with little hair pulling, otherwise expect some tense moments come print time.

I gave up getting short run printing done in this area and I send everything I print over the web to a printer in CA (PS Print). They are cheaper than anybody and they have no problem printing things in small numbers (even less than 1000). BUT, even though they provide templates for your work everything is done in "high-end" graphic programs. You might see if whatever program you use can distill your documents to a PDF file and see if they will accept it. All PDF's are not the same, depends on which version of Adobe Acrobat you are running.

I build documents in Adobe Indesign with Adobe Photoshop for artwork and photos, then I convert it to a PDF file and upload it through their website. They send you a color proof in the mail and you fax back an OK to print the job. In a few weeks the catalogs are sitting on your doorstep.

Their website ( I believe) as well as many other printers sites feature on-page calculators that will provide you a price quote on the spot (very handy) and it will even calculate shipping.

I print items like gardening calendars with large color photos on every page so the file size is massive (and I print extra pages of info so my calendars are really booklets). All together the price comes to just under $4 per item with shipping included - BUT - I print less than 1000. When you get up into the 5000 - 10000 range the price comes down to $1.50 per piece.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2005 at 2:04PM
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Is a catalog really a good idea for a garden center? What are you going to get out of having one? Maybe their heads aren't so thick, at least in this instance.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2005 at 9:14PM
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brian_zn_5_ks(N.E. Kansas)

Many thanks for the suggestions.

In my area, most of the larger retail operations have a catalog format listing of their inventory, with useful plant information, product desriptions, horticultural techniques, and often philosophical musings.

While none of these businesses offer mail order sales, there is a great demand for the publications from area gardeners. Think of it this way, Ron - if Heronswood sold only locally, cash and carry, nonetheless their delightful catalog would still generate a great deal of interest, don't you think?


    Bookmark   February 24, 2005 at 9:07PM
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Many of your suppliers will have source photos for you to use for free. Some will already be sized and formatted for catalog printing.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2005 at 3:46PM
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Heronswood is a mailorder company. Of course they have a catalog (and web site). It's interesting that garden centers where you are put out lists, I've never heard of that before (except for roses).

    Bookmark   March 2, 2005 at 7:19PM
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I am in the printing business and produce lots of catalogs each year. TriangleJohn is correct, the catalog has to be saved in a version that a printer can use. MS Publisher can be used, but at times can be a nightmare to output negatives from. It may end up costing you more to sort out the problems than to hire a good graphics person. If it's going to be straight copy like a price list without any photos, then an MS Word document would be fine. Just print out a laser copy of the sheet and have the printer shoot a negative with his camera. But if it involves multiple colors and photos, it's a whole different story.

The best softwares to use would be Quark Express, In Design or Pagemaker. There are others that will work, but these three are the most readily accepted. And yes we are more and more accepting high resolution PDF files. But as stated earlier, it has to be saved using a better version of Adobe Acrobat, not what is normally packaged with your computer.

I would suggest that you contact several graphic designers in your area and meet with them. Find out what their initial cost will be as well as what their changes will cost. From my experience, you could end up paying almost as much for your changes as you do to setup the initial catalog if you are disorganized and unsure of what will go into it.

If you are on a tight budget, spend some time laying the catalog out before you give it to the graphic designer. For example you could put all of your seed on one page, fertilizer on another and handtools on still another page. Then once you feel good about it, hand it over to be typeset. Then it's just a matter of proof reading for typos and content.

Once the catalog is finished, you can e-mail the file to any printer you choose. Don't be mislead by the graphic designer that only the printer he uses can produce the job properly. If that's the case, then you don't need to deal with a designer that is so limited. He is just looking for a slice of the printing pie. Remember, you want the file to be usable by any quality printer.

Lastly, your initial setup costs will be high the first year. But each following year should be very low if you stay with the same theme, but just make minor changes like pricing.

Good luck! I would be happy to discuss this further with you if needed.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2005 at 12:00PM
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Cindi McMurray

Have you shown management the wonderful catalog from Arnolds Greenhouse? I think they raised the bar on 'plant lists'. You might be able to email them and get Darlita to tell you what software she uses.
Funny thing...I didn't realize other regions don't have the tradition of nursery catalogs. They are missing out on sales! My landscaper friends carry catalogs from every non-mail order nursery around, but Arnolds is the best one, with 125 pages, plant descriptions and photos. I think clients add more to their landscape requests once they look through a catalog and read about what is available, instead of just replicating plants and designs they have seen locally.

Here is a link that might be useful: Arnolds Greenhouse web site

    Bookmark   March 5, 2005 at 11:14AM
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