Tuesday, June 15, 1999
Page 12
E-commerce recasts company's role
Web works wonders for Movie Poster Warehouse
Whether you are looking for a rare, mint-condition poster from the 1955 Frank Sinatra movie The Man with the Golden Arm for the den or a ubiquitous Star Wars reprint poster for a college dorm room, chances are that Shelly Candel, owner of Toronto-based Movie Poster Warehouse, will have it. The company offers more than a million movie posters and 5,000 photographs of movie stars.
From the beginning, Ms. Candel understood that dealing in collectibles, obscure items and niche products meant she could not simply rely on walkby customers and local contacts. By definition, the local market for such particular items is small. In order to succeed, she had to find a way to reach potential customers beyond her own backyard.
Initally, therefore, Movie Poster Warehouse was largely a mail-order company. But the expense of promoting a catalogue and getting it into people's hands proved to be too much for Ms. Candel. Then along came the Web. "The cost of advertising a mail-order catalogue and distributing it is at least 10 times higher than for a Web site," explains Ms. Candel. "Since we came
online, we still send out catalogues, but now it is primarily to customers who have already ordered from us over the Internet."
Users who dial in to encounter a list of the thousands of posters and pictures available via the Web site. They can search for a particular film or browse alphabetically. As well, some of the listings feature images that customers can view before they buy. Once they have made their selection, orders can be placed via a secure server right then and there.


Today, Ms. Candel estimates that more than half her sales orgiinate on the Web, 10 per cent are mail instead of pure catalogue sales and the rest come from her bricks-and-mortar store. Overall, sales have grown 20 per cent each of the three years that Movie Poster Warehouse has maintained an electronic storefront.
For Ms. Candel, the Web is unrivaled in its ability to reach a broad audience of potential customers. Movie Poster Warehouse regularly fill orders from Japan, Saudi Arabia, South Africa

More than half her sales now originate on the Web, says Shelly Candel. You can visit her companys's site at
and many European and outh American countries. All this is accomplished inexpensively and effiently from a modest North Toronto location.
But it is not just about electronic selling. Ms. Candel leverages her technology to deal with customer service as well.
"We get a lot of e-mails here, 30 to 50 a day, more than one person can handle," she says. "We use it to follow up on orders and make sure everything is okay. It makes for a nice closing touch."
And of course with so many of her customers being spread around the world, e-mail and the "always-on" Web make time zone difficulties a thing of the past.
The Web has redefined more than the role of catalogues for Movie Poster Warehouse. Ms. Candel points out that although she takes a lot of orders over a toll-free number, even these are largely generated by the company's online presence. "People who are on the Web will call up and say, "I'm looking at such and such a poster right now."
The ultimate irony for Ms.
Candel came when she discovered that the Web -- a medium she was using to reach people halfway around the world -- was also driving people to her Toronto store.
"That's been the biggest surprise for me," Ms. Candel says. "In the past I've used radio advertising, TV and print to try to get people in here -- and lo and behold, local people are finding us through the Web site. Remarkable.
"If the Web hadn't come along," she admits, "I think I would be struggling." Instead, it's lights, camera, action.