A cautious kick-off

Catalogers kicked off 2006 cautiously if the number of books received by Catalog Tracker is any indication. In January the service of Greenwich, CT-based list and marketing services provider Direct Media received 390 consumer catalogs. That’s down 2.5% from the 400 catalogs received in January 2005. Then again, it’s a significantly smaller year-over-year decline in volume than seen the previous month: In December 2005, Catalog Tracker had logged in more than 15% fewer catalogs β€” 300 in all β€” than it had in December 2004.

What didn’t decline, however, was the percentage of catalogs offering incentives. Free shipping and handling remained the most popular promotion, with 13% offering it, up from 11% the previous January. The percentage of catalogs promoting deferred billing held steady at 7%. But the percentage of books offering some sort of gift with purchase rose sharply, from 4% in January 2005 to 7% this January. Merchants offering gifts included Yankee Candle (buy two, get one free), Swanson Health Products (buy one, get one free), and gifts and kitchenware cataloger Gooseberry Patch (free book with every order).

Among other promotions, tabletop and gifts merchant Cashs of Ireland used its front cover to promote its Birthday Bonus: Customers who give their birth date when they place an order will receive a special offer come the big day. And upscale chocolate purveyor Godiva ran a contest, with an $80,000 jewelry spree as the top prize.

Finally, our favorite cover line of the month was from Classic Designs by Matthew Burak: β€œNew! 16 legs for kitchen and bath.” It doesn’t make much sense unless you know that the company sells furniture-making components.