Catalog Tracker: February Chill Hits Catalog Volume

Just as it had in January, year-over-year catalog volume declined in February, judging by Direct Media’s Catalog Tracker. The service of the Greenwich, CT-based list services firm received 339 consumer catalogs this past February — 9.8% fewer than the 376 it had received in February 2006. While that’s a sizable decline, it’s less steep than January’s year-over-year decrease in volume, which was nearly 19%.

Within some of the major product categories, however, the decline in volume was especially pronounced. Apparel and accessories books consistently account for the plurality of catalogs. In February 2007, for instance, they made up slightly more than 34% of the total volume, with 116 catalogs received. But that’s nearly 19% fewer apparel catalogs than were received in February 2006, when the category accounted for 38% of total volume. Year-over-year volume within the general merchandise category fell even more: by 26%, from 46 catalogs in February 2006 to 34 this past February.

Twelve percent of all the February 2007 catalogs included a free shipping offer, down from 14% the previous month, but up from 11% the previous February. (Two catalogs — women’s apparel book A.B. Lambdin and gifts title Personal Creations — provided free shipping only on Web orders.) Six percent of the February catalogs promised deferred billing. That’s flat with January 2007 and down one percentage point from February 2006.

In its Winter 2007 edition, collectibles merchant Lenox reminded customers to order by March 15 for guaranteed St. Patrick’s Day delivery. In its Early Spring 2007 edition, Lenox reminded customers to order by April 5 for guaranteed Easter delivery. Interestingly, both books arrived in Catalog Tracker’s mailbox the same week (the week of Feb. 4). The only other cataloger to post its guaranteed Easter delivery deadline on the cover was cookware merchant Williams-Sonoma, which gave an April 4 deadline. Mrs. Field’s Cookies, however, did call out its Valentine’s Day deadline, which was Feb. 13 — great news for procrastinators.

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