Catalog Tracker: Volume Declines Continue

Forty percent of catalogers are considering cutting their overall circulation in response to last month’s postal rate hikes, according to an exclusive Multichannel Merchant survey (see “After the Rate Case” for details). But it appears that plenty of mailers had reduced circulation prior to the postage increase, judging by Catalog Tracker’s decidedly lighter mailbags.

During the first quarter of 2007, the service of Greenwich, CT-based list services firm Direct Media had received 1,032 business-to-consumer catalogs. That’s down 11% from the 1,162 books received during the first quarter of last year.

March, in fact, was the third straight month of year-over-year declines in volume. This past March, Catalog Tracker logged in 376 catalogs, down 5% from 396 in March 2006. The percentage of books offering free shipping and handling held steady at 11%, however. And the percentage advertising deferred billing declined slightly, from 7% in March 2006 to 6%.

Among other promotions, Alpenland International boasted of a $6.95 shipping charge on every order — which doesn’t sound like all that much of a bargain, given that the company sells gifts and collectibles, many of which are small and lightweight. Creative Irish Gifts, which sells a similar product line — except that its merchandise is from Ireland rather than middle and eastern Europe — offered $3.99 standard shipping. Healthy-living title Gaiam Harmony, collectibles cataloger National Motor Mint Museum, needlecrafts merchant The Stitchery, and coffee merchant Gevalia offered $4.95 shipping on any order; Facets Jewelry Outlet promised a $5.00 flat shipping fee.

Women’s apparel title Boston Proper Travel offered a chance to win a $1,000 travel wardrobe. Two disparate home products titles ran contests too: Upscale decor and accessories purveyor Frontgate was giving away a $50,000 “outdoor room makeover,” while downscale cleaning and maintenance supplies mailer Home Trends promoted its “Buy and Fly” sweepstakes. Another lower-end catalog, Walter Drake, decided to celebrate its 60th anniversary by giving away a $10,000 pair of diamond earrings — just the thing to wear while working out on Walter Drake’s $19.99 Pedal Feet apparatus or using the $9.99 Melon Ease Wedge Cutter (“similar to as seen on TV”).

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