The catalogs are coming!

After months of year-over-year decreases or minimal increases in volume, Catalog Tracker saw a double-digit increase in the number of consumer catalogs received. In October the service of Greenwich, CT-based list services firm Direct Media received 565 catalogs, up 12.3% from the 503 received in October 2004. It was in fact the greatest increase in year-over-year volume since January 2005, in which 19.4% more catalogs had been tallied than the previous January.

The percentage of books offering free shipping and handling rose as well, from 12% in October 2004 and 11% in September 2005 to 13%. But while the percentage offering deferred billing rose from 6% in October 2004 to 7% in October 2005, that was actually down from 8% in September 2005.

Just 20 catalogs, or 3.5%, highlighted on their covers their cut-off dates for Christmas delivery — though it’s a safe bet that in November and December we’ll have seen a rise in such cover lines. Among the October mailers, gifts merchant Art & Artifacts, decor books The Company Store and Company Kids, and women’s apparel cataloger/retailer Victoria’s Secret were the best bets for last-minute shoppers: They guaranteed delivery for in-stock items ordered as late as Dec. 23.

As for the so-called war on Christmas — in which some pundits argue that the use of “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas” is an attack on Christianity — the secularists appeared to be winning, at least judging by the names of the catalog editions received. Only 14 of the books were “Christmas” editions, whereas 190 had “holiday” in the edition title. Several catalogers did sidestep the entire issue rather creatively. Teen apparel mailer Alloy, for instance, dubbed its October issue “Bundle Up ’05”; children’s decor merchant Land of Nod went with the whimsical “Cirque du Fromage” — “Circus of Cheese” to Anglophones. Women’s apparel cataloger Newport News mailed a “Preholiday Sale” edition the week of Oct. 16…and just one week later followed up with its “Spring Style Preview.”