Circulation Rebound

For catalogers, “back to school” translated to “back in mailboxes.” This past August, Catalog Tracker, a service of Greenwich, CT-based list services firm Direct Media, received 363 consumer catalogs — a 21% increase from the 299 it had logged in for August 2003. The uptick more than made up for July 2004’s 3% dip in year-over-year volume.

Seven percent of the August 2004 catalogs offered free shipping, the same percentage as in August 2003 and down from 11% of those received in July 2004. The percentage of books promoting deferred billing increased from 6% in August 2003 and 5% in July 2004 to 7% in August 2004.

Mailers seemed to have run out of ideas when it came to other promotions. To promote its new Sport spin-off of athletic and sporty apparel, women’s clothing cataloger/retailer Coldwater Creek gave away a tote bag with all Coldwater Creek Sport purchases of at least $100. Gifts cataloger Personal Creations offered $5 off online orders. Housewares cataloger Betty Crocker promoted a flat shipping rate of $4.95, while men’s apparel book KingSize offered a flat shipping rate of $5.99. Women’s apparel cataloger Lew Magram promoted a flat shipping rate of $5.95, but only for first-time customers.

Just 11 of the catalogers, or 3%, boasted on their front cover of carrying new merchandise. In comparison, roughly 18% — nearly one in five — displayed dot whacks, cover lines, and the like touting discounts, sales, and special pricing. Not content to settle for offering customers and prospects just one promotion, gifts and housewares cataloger Lillian Vernon mailed two versions of its core catalog promoting both new products and sales: “Save up to 50% on over 225 new items” read one cover, while another declared “Over 300 new value-packed items plus 100 special savings.” And just in case those offers weren’t enough to persuade readers, both versions also carried dot whacks promoting deferred billing and free shipping and handling. Whew!

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