Still waiting for the holiday rush

As multichannel merchants entered the holiday shopping season in earnest, Catalog Tracker received 522 consumer catalogs in October. That’s up 26% from the 415 books received by the service of Greenwich, CT-based list services firm Direct Media in September. But it’s down nearly 8% from the 566 b-to-c catalogs that had been logged in the previous October.

The percentage of catalogs offering free shipping and handling was down as well, from 13% in October 2005 to 12% in October 2006. The number of mailers offering deferred billing also declined by one percentage point, from 7% in October 2005 to 6% this past October.

Among other incentives, slightly more than 5.5% promised some sort of gift with purchase. These included food mailers Bissinger’s, Ethel M Chocolates, and Wisconsin Cheeseman; McFeely’s Square Drive Screws; and toys merchant MindWare. Food mailer Figi’s offered the chance to win a TV and DVD/VCR as well as a gift with purchase. Kitchenware cataloger/retailer Sur La Table, for its part, gave a free one-year subscription to Bon Appetit magazine with every purchase of at least $50. And a half-dozen mailers — including gifts merchant The Music Stand, decor cataloger Company Kids, and World’s Finest Chocolate — offered free monogramming or personalization.

Only 14 of the catalogers included a cover line notifying readers of the last day to order for guaranteed Christmas delivery. Of those that did, Market Day Direct, which sells prepared meals, had the earliest deadline: Dec. 11. Another food mailer, Red Cooper, gave a deadline of Dec. 14. Company Kids and women’s apparel cataloger/retailer Victoria’s Secret had the latest deadline, Dec. 22. Three catalogs from apparel cataloger/retailer The Talbots — the core women’s book as well as Talbots Kids and Talbots Men’s — gave a Dec. 21 deadline, as did two of the titles from the Williams-Sonoma stable, home furnishings catalogs PBTeen and West Elm. As for the Williams-Sonoma kitchenware catalog itself, it didn’t highlight any Christmas deadline on its cover — but it did give a deadline of Oct. 26 for Halloween orders and Nov. 20 for Thanksgiving orders.

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