The great outdoors catalog universe

Buyers of outdoor apparel, sporting goods, and recreational gear are active in more ways than one. The universe of 12-month active customers of outdoors and recreation catalogs has climbed nearly 14% during the past two years, according to New York-based media brokerage services firm ParadyszMatera. The names of 9.6 million 12-month buyers in this category were available for rental or exchange during the first quarter of 2006, compared with 8.5 million for the first quarter of 2004. All told, they account for 6% of all consumer catalog names available for rental or exchange.

Catalogs in this category sell everything from all-terrain vehicle equipment to canoes to rifles to duck-call whistles. The number-one player by far is cataloger/retailer Cabela’s, which produces scores of specialty books and had more than 3.14 million 12-month buyers during the first quarter of the year. That’s more than three times as many as fellow cataloger/retailer Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI), which had the second-largest file.

REI’s active buyer file grew nearly 21% during the past year, to more than 1 million. But the largest year-over-year growth on a percentage basis was enjoyed by Offshore Angler, a saltwater fishing title from cataloger/retailer Bass Pro Shop. Its 12-month buyer file grew 168%, from 20,000 to 54,000 names.

Compared with other market segments, the outdoors and recreation merchants aren’t heavy users of free shipping, discounts, and other promotions. From 2004 through the first quarter of this year, for instance, none of the catalogs in this category received by ParadyszMatera offered deferred payment, and only 6% — most notably deer-hunting title Legendary Whitetails and fly-fishing book J Fisher — touted some sort of free S&H offer. So far this year, 11% offered discounts, compared with 12% for all of last year and 8% in 2004.

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