Did July mailings go on holiday?

If the numbers reported by Catalog Tracker are any indication, catalogers are officially mailing less. In July, the service of Direct Media had just 206 catalogs in its mailbox, down from 286 in July 2006 — 28% books.

That follows a decrease in catalogs received the previous month. Catalog Tracker had just 234 catalogs in its mailbox in June, a 12% drop from 265 in June 2006.

Catalog Tracker received 81 apparel and accessories titles for July. That’s 17 fewer compared to July 2006. The number of children’s products titles received for the month fell to 15 from last year’s 27. Other significant drops included gifts, which slipped from 16 titles received in July 2006 to five in 2007. Home decor and housewares took a tumble as well, from 64 in 2006 to 54 this year.

This could indicate more merchants are using stringent modeling techniques — and that perhaps many marketers do not view Catalog Tracker as a hotline buyer. But there were other signs of belt-tightening, such as fewer offers of free shipping and deferred billing during the month.

For instance, 12% of the catalogs received offered free shipping promotions in July 2007, down slightly from 15% in July 2006. Use of deferred billing promotions decreased from 8% in July 2006 to 4% in July 2007.

How were catalogers trying to drive business in July? Women’s apparel and accessories merchant Chico’s offered a 20% discount to consumers using their American Express card.

County gifts mailer Gooseberry Patch gave away 40 recipe cards with orders, while apparel seller Orvis promoted its bricks and mortar locations on the cover of its Women’s Clothing catalog. And apparel and accessories book The Comfort Corner offered its customers a flat-rate shipping fee of $6.95.