In this age of computer-generated mailings, a simple handwritten message of thanks can be an effective way to build customer loyalty.

Artisan Outlet, a family-owned fashion retail company with 15 stores in Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire, regularly sends out postcards thanking customers who have purchased at least $50 worth of merchandise.

The handwritten cards, sent out by the stores' salespeople, are succinct but friendly: "Artisan Outlet just wanted to thank you for your patronage. We hope that your new quality clothes will satisfy you, and that you'll come back. We'd be happy to see ya!"

Customers' names are obtained from credit card receipts or, if they pay in cash, they are asked to add their names to the mailing list.