February’s catching up

Used to be that the number of consumer catalogs received plummeted between January — at one time the most voluminous month of the year — and February. This year, at least, the gap between January and February has closed considerably, according to Catalog Tracker. The service of Greenwich, CT-based list and marketing services provider Direct Media received 376 consumer catalogs this February, less than 4% fewer than the 390 books received in January. What’s more, while 2.5% fewer catalogs were received in January 2006 than in January 2005, nearly 17% more catalogs were logged in this February than in February of last year. And year to date, volume is up 6%: 766 consumer catalogs were received during the first two months of 2006, compared with 722 during January and February 2005.

The percentage of catalogers offering free shipping and handling rose since the previous February, to 11% from 9%. That’s nonetheless a decline from January 2006, when 13% of the catalogs touted free S&H. Conversely the percentage of deferred billing offers declined, to 7% from 9%.

Because 61% of the February catalogs arrived during the latter half of the month, few mentioned Valentine’s Day. Food gifts merchant Delightful Deliveries included a cover line noting “Over 250 Valentine’s Day gifts online.” Another food gifts mailer, Popcorn Factory, guaranteed Valentine’s Day delivery for orders received by Feb. 10. And kitchenware cataloger/retailer Williams-Sonoma guaranteed Valentine’s delivery for orders received by Feb. 9 — at least on the first of the two catalogs received. Less than two weeks after Catalog Tracker had received the February edition, in came the March issue of Williams-Sonoma, guaranteeing Easter delivery for orders received by April 12.

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