Giving the gift of free shipping

Hopefully Catalog Tracker left a gift of PowerBars and Gatorade for its postal carriers. In November the service of Greenwich, CT-based list services firm Direct Media received 559 consumer catalogs. While that’s down slightly from the 565 books received in October, it’s an increase of 2.8% from the 544 catalogs received in November 2004.

The more significant rise was in the percentage of catalogs that offered free shipping and handling: 15%, up from 13% among the October 2005 books and 10% among the November 2004 catalogs. Seven percent promised deferred billing, flat with October 2005 and up slightly from 6% of the catalogs received the previous November.

Nearly 6% of the catalogs received in November 2005 — including food merchant Cherry Moon Farms, hobby title Entertainment Earth, and women’s apparel merchant Victoria’s Secret — promised some sort of free gift with purchase. Women’s apparel cataloger/retailer Coldwater Creek offered free gift boxing as well as free shipping. Apparel and home goods cataloger Blair and food purveyor Wine Country Gift Baskets tried to lure customers to order online by offering discounts on Web orders; decor mailer Design Toscano hoped to encourage earlier orders by taking 10% off purchases made by Dec. 15.

Many more catalogs, meanwhile, made a point of wooing last-minute shoppers by promoting last-minute dates for guaranteed holiday delivery. More than 10% of the books received in November posted their holiday cut-off dates on their front cover, up from 3.5% of those received in October. Outdoor sporting equipment cataloger/retailer Cabela’s, bedding mailer The Company Store, consumer electronics merchant Crutchfield, apparel merchants The Tog Shop and Victoria’s Secret, and sister gifts titles Signals and Wireless had the latest deadline: Dec. 23.

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