Seeing signs of Santa

In August consumers who aren’t beginning to stock up on school supplies are buying replacement flip-flops for the ones they lost at the beach and grill accessories in preparation of the big Labor Day cookout. But as far as consumer catalogers are concerned, August is the beginning of the holiday shopping season, which means it’s time to start loading up the mailbags.

Catalog Tracker, a service of Greenwich, CT-based list and marketing services firm Direct Media, received 357 consumer catalogs in August. That’s an increase of more than 18% from the 301 received in July — though it’s also nearly 2% fewer than the 363 logged in for August 2004.

If the August mailings are any indication, free shipping and handling offers will abound as the season progresses. Eleven percent of the catalogs received this August featured some sort of free S&H promotion, compared with 8% the previous August. Deferred billing offers rose as well, to 10% from 7% in August 2004.

Those weren’t the only incentives to hit the mail. More than 15% of the catalogs dangled some sort of discount or sale, from religious gifts and decor mailer Abbey Press’s one-day-only discount offer to a tiered-discount promotion from women’s apparel cataloger/retailer Victoria’s Secret.

Other incentives included a free tote bag with a purchase of $75 or more from Barbie Collector, a free pencil case with purchase from L.L. Bean’s Kids catalog, and free stationery with purchase from cards and gifts mailer Leanin’ Tree.

And nearly 6% of the catalogers offered multiple incentives. Several of the Redcats USA titles, including BrylaneHome, women’s apparel book Chadwick’s of Boston, and men’s apparel title KingSize, promised both discounts and deferred billing. Decor, housewares, and gifts catalog Lillian Vernon touted deferred billing and free S&H, while its sister title Lilly’s Kids went one better, offering deferred billing, free S&H, and the chance to “save 50% on over 100 new items.”

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