A surprising lift in January

Consumers may be buying less in the tight economy, but you can’t say catalogers weren’t trying. Catalog Tracker received 353 catalogs in January, up 11% from the 317 delivered to its mailbox in the same month of 2007.

But according to the service of Greenwich, CT-based list firm Direct Media, that’s still down from prior Januarys. For instance, Catalog Tracker received 390 books in January 2006, and 400 in January 2005.

Naturally, January was a time for cleaning out merchandise, in hopes that consumers would redeem gift cards or spend their holiday cash. Home decor and housewares title Acacia offered up to 43% off on items, and included a 10-page clearance section in its January mailing. Shoes and accessories book Aerosoles offered up to 70% off, with a 6-page clearance section.

Meanwhile, apparel and accessories title Bedford Fair Lifestyles mailed a 64-page clearance edition with offers of up to 65% off. Women’s apparel mailer Draper’s & Damon’s had a 48-page clearance book, as did men’s clothier Jos. A. Bank.

Since many catalogers reported holiday sales overall being down, and the January forecasts looking shaky, more mailers saw a need to increase their free shipping offers. Free shipping promotions increased a bit from 14% in January 2007 to 15% in January 2008.

But with consumer credit unsteady, deferred billing promotions did not rise. Those offers stayed the same as January 2007, at 6%.

With Easter on March 23, some books promoted the arrival of the Christian holiday a little earlier that usual. General merchant Miles Kimball promoted the holiday on its cover, as did children’s book Oriental Trading Company.

Only one title, food merchant Godiva Chocolatier, ran a sweepstakes promoted in January. What was the offer? A chance to win a weekend trip to New York.

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