Catalog Tracker: Free S&H Losing Its Luster?

Continuing the trend started in April, Catalog Tracker in July received fewer catalogs than it had during the same month last year. But a new trend may have started: For the first time this year, a smaller percentage of mailers offered free shipping than had 12 months prior.

All told, Catalog Tracker (a service of Greenwich, CT-based list firm Direct Media) tallied 306 consumer catalogs in July. That’s down 7.3% from the 330 books received in July 2002. The number of home decor/housewares catalogs received increased 15%, however, from 57 in July 2002 to 66 this past July. Conversely, the number of general merchandise books received dropped 20%, from 70 to 56.

The percentage of catalogers offering free shipping or deferred billing declined as well. Whereas 10% of the catalogs received in July 2002 had some sort of free S&H offer, just 9% of those received this past July did. And while 9% of the July 2002 catalogs offered deferred billing, this July just 5% did.

Among the promotions that catalogers did offer, shoe mailer B.A. Mason touted “special insider pricing for first-time customers,” just as it had the previous year. The Bloomingdale’s by Mail women’s apparel book also repeated an offer from the previous July: discounts for customers who ordered by a certain date. Gifts cataloger Cashs of Ireland did promote free shipping, as well as a Waterford gift for orders of more than $200. Computer marketer Dell offered a free memory upgrade, while women’s apparel cataloger/retailer J. Jill promoted a sweepstakes to win a trip to California’s Napa Valley.

And in the belief that the less specific an offer, the more tantalizing it is, general merchandiser Dr. Leonard’s teased on its front cover “Free gift with every order.”