At the DMA Annual: Catalogers Say Mail Safe, Response Strong

Chicago (DIRECT Newsline)–The captains of the catalog industry faced the national and trade press at Tuesday afternoon panel at the Direct Marketing Association Annual Conference to calm fears about mail security.

“The likelihood of having a dispersion of anthrax through a direct mail campaign is very, very unlikely,” said H. Robert Wientzen, DMA president/CEO. Commercial mail is separated from first class before it even hits mail centers, said members of a panel that included representatives of the nation’s biggest catalogers.

“We believe postal mail is safe, a safe way to shop, and we’re looking forward to a good Christmas,” said Michael Sherman, president of multititle mailer Fingerhut Cos.

The other catalogers on the panel agreed, saying their expectations for the quarter hadn’t slipped. “We feel holiday results are on target,” said Gordon Cooke, head of apparel cataloger/retailer J. Jill.

Added George Ittner, CEO of apparel and home goods mailer Newport News, “We have seen no reaction to people’s response to catalogs that would indicate concerns about anthrax.”

Some panelists said they had beefed up security at their facilities, are sending e-mail to announce a catalog is on the way by mail, and are taking a closer look at temporary workers. They also take care to prominently display their return address and contact information on the outer envelope or label.

Will anthrax change mail and how much catalogs rely on it?

“There’s no substitute to ink and paper,” Wientzen said. “This industry needs the Postal Service, and this country needs the post office.”

The Internet has not taken the place of catalogs, said panelists, even when a catalog is published on the Website. “We do 25% of our business online and this has remained constant,” said J. Jill’s Cooke.

The USPS will need to appeal to Congress for more cash, all panelists said. Increased security efforts, including the purchase of eight irradiation machines to kill anthrax germs in the mail, will cost billions. The postmaster general said that mailers shouldn’t have to pay for extra security measures, according to the DMA’s Jerry Cerasale.

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