Anticlimactic end to 2005

Between November and December, the number of consumer catalogs received by Catalog Tracker declined sharply — much more sharply than it had the previous year. This past December the service of Greenwich, CT-based marketing services provider Direct Media logged in 300 catalogs, down 46% from the 559 received in November. In comparison, the decline in catalogs received between November and December 2004 had been only 35%. What’s more, year-over-year volume for December declined 15%, from 354 in December 2004.

The percentage of catalogs offering free shipping and handling rose year over year, however, to 13% from 10% in December 2004. Then again, compared with November 2005, the portion of books promising free shipping and handling actually declined, from 15%. As for deferred billing, 8% of the December 2005 catalogs promised it, compared with 7% of those received in November 2005 and 6% of those tallied in December 2004.

As expected, the percentage of catalogs touting their holiday cut-off dates on the cover reached a zenith in December: nearly 21%, compared with 10% in November and 3.5% in October. Dec. 23 was the latest date for which merchants guaranteed Christmas delivery. Several stalwarts such as bedding book Company Store, gifts title Signals, and women’s apparel mailer Victoria’s Secret had been promoting this cut-off date throughout the season

Other catalog companies guaranteeing Christmas deliveries for orders received as late as Dec. 23 included outdoor gear, apparel, and home goods merchants Lands’ End and L.L. Bean; gadgets and gifts purveyors Brookstone and Sporty’s Men’s Collection; apparel cataloger/retailer Eddie Bauer; desk and office accessories merchant Levenger; and antique-influenced gift and home decor cataloger Victorian Trading Co.

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