Catalog Tracker: Better Late Than Early

In reviewing the Catalog Tracker statistics for December, the most notable finding was that only four fewer catalogs were received in December 2003 than in December 2002.

Catalog Tracker (a service of Greenwich, CT-based list firm Direct Media) received 314 consumer catalogs this past December, a 1.3% decline from December 2002. In comparison, 21.1% fewer catalogs were received in November 2003 than in November 2002. And 17.6% fewer arrived in October 2003 than in October 2002. It’s as sure an indication as any that more catalogers are dropping holiday books later in the season, to accommodate the growing number of last-minute shoppers.

Nine percent of the catalogs received this past December offered free shipping and handling, up from 8% the previous December. That slight increase was consistent with the rest of the fourth quarter: In November 2003, 10% of the catalogs received promoted free S&H, up from 9% in November 2002. Similarly, in October 2003, 11% offered S&H promotions, compared with 9% the previous October. The percentage of books offering deferred billing in December was 7%, the same as in December 2002.

Among other promotions, crafts title The Stitchery and audio catalog Heartland Music each offered a flat shipping rate of $4.95. Gifts catalog Signals gave a $15 gift card with every purchase. Baked-goods marketer Mrs. Beasley’s offered first-time buyers a 10% discount. Women’s apparel book Chadwick’s of Boston gave a free sweater with every $50 purchase. Along the same lines, Chocolatier Godiva promised a free box of chocolates, to be delivered in January, with orders of more than $99. Not to be outdone, fellow food mailer Figi’s promised six free gifts with any order. Eat, drink, and be merry indeed.

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