You`re right - without knowing the industry and the product category, it is tough to provide good actionable advice.
Even if retailers don`t ask what you`re doing in other channels, you don`t want the buyer flipping through catalogs as s/he is doing competitive analysis and finding the product s/he buys listed in the catalog. Often customers come to the retail store manager with catalog in hand asking "what is the difference between this one and the one I bought from you last week? Why are you 10% higher?"
I always say that our job is to make the buyer look good (without going broke of course). Buyers have a multitude of products to review and support and if you make it difficult for them, the support and loyalty could decrease. Better to continually make them know and feel that they`ve made a good purchase decision in going with your products. I would not risk a relationship over potentially poor channel management.
In some of the industries that I have been involved in (for example car care, cleaning, hardware, and pet) we even had to be careful managing sku`s between the mass merch, discount, club, grocery and DIY channels!
As far as packaging goes, I would not recommend CHANGING packaging to suit catalogers but it is cheaper if you go brown box as you say. If the product is packaged overseas, then you`re stuck with what you`re importing until your volume is high enough to warrant channel specific packaging.
I did find that when shipping via courier, the retail packaging never seemed to protect the product adequately. We ended up putting it into another "shipping" carton. This added packaging and labor cost but cut down on freight costs (returns).
A good idea is a good idea NOW![sup]TM[/sup]
| sales | marketing | web | strategy consulting