Big on promos, low on volume

Forget the lazy days of summer. Consumer catalogers in July were hard at work trying to entice shoppers by ramping up their promotions, judging by the books that arrived in the Catalog Tracker mailbox. Fifteen percent of the catalogs received this July by Catalog Tracker, a service of Greenwich, CT-based list services provider Direct Media, came with some sort of free shipping and handling offer, compared with 12% in June and 11% the previous July. In fact, it was the highest percentage of free shipping offers since November 2005 (which also saw 15% of the catalogs received promising free S&H).

What’s more, 8% of the July 2006 catalogs offered deferred billing. That’s up from 5% for both the previous month and the previous July.

What did decline year over year was volume. Catalog Tracker received 286 consumer books this July, down 5% from the 301 received in July 2005. This was the fifth month in a row to see a year-over-year drop in volume.

Seventy-four of this year’s July catalogs had “summer” in their subtitles, while 79 had “fall” or “autumn.” Plus-size women’s apparel cataloger Silhouettes straddled the seasons by naming its book “Summer into Fall.”

But several catalogers looked even further into the future. Toys cataloger Young Explorers, gifts and stationery merchant Current, and gifts mailer Terry’s Village called the editions received the week of July 9 “Holiday Preview 2006.” Gifts and crafts cataloger Oriental Trading Co. called its edition received the same week simply “Holiday 2006.” And Gorsuch Ltd., which specializes in skiwear, dubbed the edition received at the end of July “Winter 2007.”