Catalog Tracker: A Case of the Credit Jitters?

Are the credit-card woes of marketers such as Spiegel and Sears discouraging catalogers from offering credit? Data from list firm Direct Media’s Catalog Tracker service suggests as much. Only 5% of the 341 catalogs received in February promoted deferred billing or other credit offers, down from 6% of those received in February 2002. That’s in keeping with the previous month’s trend: While 6% of the catalogs received in January 2003 offered a credit promotion, 8% of those received in January 2002 had. And 8.1% of all the catalogs received last year featured credit offers.

In their place, more catalogers appear to be promoting free shipping-and-handling offers. Eight percent of the February catalogs promoted free S&H, up from 2% the previous February and from 6.8% through all of 2002.

Of course, some catalogers tried to stand out by featuring somewhat different promotions. Women’s apparel cataloger California Style, for instance, touted a free necklace offer on its cover; gifts book What on Earth offered a free T-shirt. Men’s shoes mailer Stuart McGuire flaunted a $10 coupon, and workwear cataloger WearGuard offered 50% off all personalization. Home decor mailer Design Toscano gave a 10% discount to those who ordered by St. Patrick’s Day. And to drive orders to its Website, horticulture marketer Van Bourgondien offered a free gift to those who ordered online.