Catalogers Aglow Over Valentine’s Day Sales

Stamford, CT–Although some catalogers reported disappointing January sales, February was looking up for others, thanks to strong Valentine’s Day gift sales.

In general, the Valentine’s Day gift business is booming: U.S. consumers spent $3.6 billion on Valentine’s Day gifts last year, according to the Arlington, VA-based trade group International Mass Retail Association (IMRA). And this year, consumers surveyed by the IMRA were planning to spend an average of $84.20, which is up 8% from 2000.

San Francisco-based fresh-flowers cataloger Calyx & Corolla, for one, reports that Valentine’s Day sales are “over plan and over last year in the single digits,” according to executive vice president Ann Lee. The company mailed three Valentine’s Day editions this year, although she would not disclose circulation specifics.

Another San Francisco-based marketer, cataloger/retailer See’s Candies, mailed nearly 500,000 Valentine’s Day catalogs in January, mostly to its house file, says vice president of marketing Richard Van Doren. Valentine’s Day catalog and Internet sales were 17% ahead of last year, while retail sales were up just 2% of 2000.

It helped that Feb. 14 fell on a Wednesday this year, Van Doren says: “When the holiday falls on a weekend, people tend to go out to dinner instead of buy candy.”

Valentine’s Day catalog sales for Las Vegas-based Ethel M Chocolates exceeded plan, says vice president of e-commerce Tari Staton, although she would not say by how much. The company mailed an undisclosed number of catalogs to customers and prospects in January, “and sales this season were way above last year,” she says.

Lingerie mailer Frederick’s of Hollywood mailed 4 million copies of a spring preview catalog with a Valentine’s Day-theme cover in early January. The first 12 pages featured Valentine’s Day products, says vice president of marketing Danielle Savin. Frederick’s replaced the swimsuit section with a 16-page sale insert. Results met plan, Savin says: “We had a great Valentine’s Day, but then we were expecting a lot. We were expecting a 2.7% response, but we got a 3.2% response.”

Even more impressive was Red Envelope’s whopping 300% increase over last year’s Valentine’s Day sales. The San Francisco-based upscale gifts marketer mailed 3 million copies of a 36-page Valentine’s Day edition in mid-January to a combination of house file and prospect names, says CEO Martin McClanan, “and we were more than 20% ahead of plan.” In fact, the peak order day for Valentine’s Day marked the largest order day in the company’s history.

The only cataloger contacted that did not have a stellar Valentine’s Day was Lake Forest, IL-based food gifts cataloger The Popcorn Factory. In January, the company mailed more than 1 million copies of a Valentine’s Day book in two drops to customers and prospects, says president Nancy Hensel. Results were “close to plan,” she says.

Hensel blames the slight Valentine’s Day sales shortfall on a flood of mail dropped to beat the Jan. 7 postal rate hike, which might have slowed delivery of the catalogs: “More than half of the books were in homes a week beyond plan, which messes up projections and forecasts.”

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