People Who Need People

In reviewing the results from Catalog Age’s exclusive Benchmark Report on Critical Issues and Trends (see page 30), I was surprised that one-third of respondents cited the difficulty in finding experienced catalog talent as one of their most pressing management concerns. Difficulty in finding staff was more of a worry than the need to merge with or acquire another company to achieve economies of scale or fund expansion (cited by 29% of respondents) or problems in securing additional financial support (26%). What’s more, several people I chatted with at the DMA Annual Convention in October said much the same thing: Marketers are having a tough time finding the right people to help them maintain and expand their businesses.

This is good news, in a way. For the past few years, catalogers have been more concerned about finding enough money to keep afloat than they were about such luxuries as staffing. More than the ever-fluctuating projections of holiday sales, which change faster than the odds for a race at Belmont, concerns about hiring the right staff indicate that executives and owners are now fiscally fit enough to focus on growth.

Of course, it’s also the yin to the past few years’ yang. All sorts of companies felt compelled to slash head count during the past few years. Many businesses have survived only by the perseverance and dedication of employees who’ve managed to perform the equivalent of two or three positions at once. But perseverance and dedication can’t add more hours to the day or negate the human desire for food and sleep. (Goodness knows I’ve tried to get the staff here to wean themselves off their addiction to seven hours of sleep a night, but I’ve had no luck so far.)

So Gina Valentino’s article on determining your staffing needs on page 39 couldn’t have come at a better time. And throughout the next year we’ll be featuring periodic articles about hiring and grooming staff.

After several years of producing articles about downsizing and layoffs, discussing ways to build up a staff will be a pleasure.

As you read this, you’re probably most concerned with getting through the holiday season, but make a note on your calendar about the deadlines for Catalog Age’s Annual Catalog Awards and I. Merchant Awards. The deadline for entries is Jan. 18, but if you enter by Jan. 7 you save $25 per entry.

In response to industry feedback, we’ve changed some of the categories and even added a few, such as a category specifically for catalogers with annual sales of less than $10 million. Entries are judged by a panel of several dozen of the industry’s leading practitioners and consultants; winners will be announced at a special luncheon at the Annual Catalog Conference in Orlando, FL, in May.

For more information or an entry form, visit, or contact special projects manager Heather Retzlaff (203-358-4233 or

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