The incredible shrinking woodworkers universe

To those who don’t know a wing nut from a cashew nut, all tools are alike. Not so for woodworkers. Running the gamut from cabinetmakers to scrollsaw hobbyists, woodworkers can buy their hardware, hand tools, power tools, and project patterns from a variety of general tool and equipment catalogs and retailers. But they often prefer to shop from specialty catalogs.

The number of 12-month buyers available for rent or exchange from these specialty woodworking titles is 1.37 million, according to New York-based media brokerage services firm ParadyszMatera. The size of the 12-month universe has declined more than 21% from 1.74 million names two years ago. This drop is due in part to a number of mailers, such as Constantine’s, Hartville Tool, and The Wooden Teddy Bear, having removed their files from the market.

Individually some of the woodworking catalogs have seen double-digit gains in the size of their house file during the past year. Between the first quarter of 2004 and that of 2005, Rockler Woodworking and Hardware grew its 12-month buyer file 22%, to nearly 165,000, giving Rockler the largest active house file in the market.

Also enjoying considerable growth has been Woodworker’s Hardware, which specializes in cabinet supplies. Its house file has grown 34%, to 26,000 for the first quarter of 2005. A smaller title, Sherwood Creations, has seen even greater gains. The cataloger of patterns and supplies for creating yard art increased its 12-month buyer file 51%, to 22,000.

Incentive use among the woodworking catalogs has dropped appreciably during the past two years. Whereas one in five catalogs had offered discounts, free shipping, or other incentives two years ago, so far this year only one in 20 has. ParadyszMatera credits the decline to the bankruptcy of Woodworker’s Warehouse in late 2003; the cataloger had regularly offered discounts. Today Woodworker’s Supply, which has the fifth largest active buyer file, is one of the more promotional books in the sector. Ditto The Winfield Collection, which is one of the few woodworking catalogs to offer both S&H promotions and discounts.

House file universe: Woodworking catalogs
1Q 2003 2Q 2003 3Q 2003 4Q 2003 1Q 2004 2Q 2004 3Q 2004 4Q 2004 1Q 2005
Total universe 1.74 1.70 1.74 1.61 1.54 1.50 1.40 1.38 1.37
Woodworking catalogers with the largest active buyer files
Rank List name 1Q 2005 house file universe Average order
1 Rockler Woodworking and Hardware 164,768 $76
2 Tool Crib Catalog Buyers 125,865 $280
3 Woodcraft Supply Corp. 99,790 $100
4 MLCS and Penn State Co-op Database 77,756 n/a
5 Woodworker’s Supply 64,611 $142
Source: ParadyszMatera

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