Catalog Tracker: When More Is Less

From September to October, the number of consumer catalogs received by Catalog Tracker surged 24%, to 558 books. That’s a slightly greater increase, percentage-wise, than the previous year: In October 2002, Catalog Tracker (a service of Greenwich, CT-based list firm Direct Media) had received 21% more catalogs than in September 2002.

But continuing the trend that began this past April, Catalog Tracker logged in fewer catalogs for the month than it had the previous year. In October 2002, 677 catalogs had arrived — 21% more than in October 2003. Put another way, in September 2002, Catalog Tracker received 558 catalogs — the same amount received in October 2003.

And as a rule, the catalogs received this past October were more promotional than those received 12 months prior. Whereas 11% of the October 2003 catalogs offered free shipping and handling, only 9% of the October 2002 books had. Likewise, 8% of the October 2003 catalogs promoted deferred billing, compared with 6% the previous October.

Other promotions abounded as well. To drive traffic to its Website, women’s healthcare catalog As We Change offered 5% off customers’ first Web order, while Special Times Gifts gave all online orders a 5% discount. BabyStyle gave free shipping plus $10 off online orders, and women’s apparel cataloger/retailer Coldwater Creek included in some editions a blow-in touting $5 off online purchases of at least $25. (Another version of its catalog featured a dot whack on the cover offering $20 off orders of at least $100 and $40 off orders of at least $150.)

To persuade shoppers to beat the holiday rush, shoe marketer Birkenstock tempted customers with 10% off all orders received by Nov. 30. Similarly, food marketer Mackenzie Ltd. took 5% off orders placed by Nov. 5.

A number of catalogers promoted discounts on orders of a certain dollar value. For instance, gifts mailer Crown Galleries included a coupon good for $20 off any purchase of $40 or more. Food cataloger Cheryl & Co. took $10 off any purchase of at least $35, while furnishings book Home Decorators Collection took $10 off orders of more than $50.

Also, home accessories catalog Plow & Hearth took $10 off orders of at least $75. And teen apparel cataloger/retailer Delia’s took 10% off orders of more than $75. Delia’s, incidentally, wins the unofficial prize for best edition title: You Sleigh Me 2003.

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