Market snapshot: Gifts catalogs maintain a collection of buyers

Despite significant consolidation during the past few years — the acquisition of Signals and Wireless by the parent company of Art & Artifact, for instance, and the sale of Colorful Images to competitor Current — the number of 12-month buyers from gifts and collectibles catalogers has held steady during the past two years. According to New York-based media brokerage services firm ParadyszMatera, during the fourth quarter of 2005 the names of 19.7 million 12-month buyers within this category were available for rental or exchange. That’s up 1% from 19.5 million during the fourth quarter of 2004. Those 19.7 million buyers account for about 17% of all active consumer catalog buyers whose names are available for rental or exchange.

The largest file in the category, that of Collections Etc., also gained the greatest number of names last year — 616,000. This 32% increase brings the low-price gift merchant’s 12-month buyer file to more than 2.5 million names.

In terms of percentage growth, however, the biggest gainer was The Music Stand, one of the titles owned by the former Concepts Direct, now known as Direct Retailing. The cataloger of music-related gifts enjoyed a 154% surge in active buyers, bringing its 12-month buyer file to 90,000. Increased prospecting and a broader merchandise mix get most of the credit for the increase. Direct Retailing’s other titles include gift catalogs Linda Anderson and Characters.

Like the overall number of active buyers, the use of incentives among gifts and collectibles merchants has held steady. Last year 22% offered some sort of incentive, such as free shipping and handling or deferred payment, the same percentage as the previous year. Likewise the use of discounts was flat at 7%, and the use of deferred payments was unchanged at 2%. Use of free S&H declined slightly, from 15% in 2004 to 14% last year. Oriental Trading Co., which specializes in low-cost novelties, was the most prolific user of free shipping among the gifts merchants. It typically offered the incentives with purchases of $40 or $60. Jewelry and tabletop cataloger/retailer Ross-Simons was the most active discounter, according to ParadyszMatera.

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