Catalog Tracker: April Volume Takes a Dip

The earlier-than-usual Easter this year appears to have led to a major shift in spring mailings. Direct Media’s Catalog Tracker service received 367 consumer catalogs this April — a nearly 8% decline from the 397 catalogs received in April 2002.

Of course, this decline in mailings could be indicative of the toll that the sluggish economy is taking on the industry. But if you compare volume for the first four months of the year compared with the first four months of 2002, you’ll see a different scenario. The Greenwich, CT-based list firm tallied 1,440 consumer catalogs from January to April, up nearly 22% from the 1,185 received from January to April 2002.

Among other notable changes: The number of home decor and housewares catalogs received fell by more than four percentage points. Whereas in April 2002, 26.4% of the books received were home or housewares titles, this past April 22.1% were. And 10% of the books received this past April had some sort of free shipping offer, up from 3% of the April 2002 catalogs. The percentage of catalogs offering deferred billing held steady at 9%, however.

Aside from free shipping and deferred billing, catalogers didn’t offer many other promotions or calls to action. General merchandise mailer Carol Wright highlighted a $2,500 jackpot on its cover. In addition to offering free shipping, window coverings cataloger Great Windows pointed out that most of its items ship in one day. And opting for a soft sell was Harry and David; the front cover of its spring/summer edition exhorted recipients, “Call your Mom on May 11.”