Catalog mail slows to a crawl

Sep 01, 2007 9:30 PM  By

June is generally a slow month for catalogers, but this year Catalog Tracker saw it as even slower than usual. Perhaps it’s a sign of tighter mailings as a result of the May postal increase, but the service of Direct Media had just 234 catalogs in its mailbox, down from 265 in June 2006, and from 281 in June 2005. For the second quarter, the Greenwich, CT-based list firm tracked 964 catalogs, down from 974 for April, May, and June of 2006.

The housewares and home furnishings category saw the biggest drop in June: Catalog Tracker recieved 24% fewer catalogs within that sector this year. The number of general merchandise catalogs received fell 17%. On the upside, Catalog Tracker received 23% more catalogs in the children’s product category, and the apparel and accessory catalogs received were up 6%.

Although the number of catalogs received was down across most categories, the average number of pages for many of the categories increased this year. Audio and video titles showed a mean jump from 62 to 112 pages, while crafts, hobbies, and sports catalogs jumped from an average of 81 to pages 137.

At 12%, the use of free shipping promotions was flat with June 2006. Deferred billing offers also remained the same as last June , at 5%. Promotions for June included a sweepstakes by teen apparel and accessories cataloger Alloy that would send the grand prize winner to Los Angeles for the premier of the teen soccer movie “Gracie,” a free DVD with any order from audio/video merchant Acorn, and a free T-shirt with the purchase of three from children’s catalog Mini Boden.

Other offers included $10 off from housewares merchant Sturbridge Yankee Workshop for customers joining its e-mail list, while decor and furniture retailer Pottery Barn promoted a variable delivery discount.

Father’s Day was not a high priority for catalogers. But both home decor and kitchen products merchant Williams Sonoma and gifts and gadgets book Brookstone recommended June 14 for guaranteed delivery for the June 17 holiday.