DMA catalog members dropping

The number of catalog companies that belong to the Direct Marketing Association has decreased less than 6% over the past three years. But while catalogers accounted for 14% of the DMA’s membership in 1997, this year they represent just more than 10%.

“We’re not growing the number of catalogers consistent with the number of catalogers out there,” says DMA president/CEO Bob Wientzen. In 1997, the DMA reported that out of its 3,838 members, 534 were catalogers. This past January, the association said that of its total membership of 4,831, just 504 were catalogers.

Wientzen blames economics for the decline in catalog members. “Most of them are very small and can’t afford to join,” he says. The DMA charges up to $3,600 in annual dues for companies with annual sales of less than $10 million; $4,300-$14,000 for companies with sales of $10 million-$33 million; and $16,000-$35,000 for larger companies. As one long-time member (who requests anonymity) notes, “In a world where expenses keep escalating to the point where companies are collecting employees’ frequent-flyer miles to subsidize air expenses, paying $30,000 in dues is pretty expensive.”

Industry consolidation is another. Ted Pamperin, a longtime DMA member and chairman of Summit, NJ-based catalog consulting and investment firm American Catalog Partnerships, cites the collapse of catalog conglomerates such as Genesis Direct, which once carried as many as 30 titles, and Stylesite Marketing. “We watched Genesis acquire a number of catalogs and end up liquidating almost two-thirds of them,” he says. Even successful conglomerates such as Cornerstone Brands have left the DMA with fewer members.

On the bright side…

In fact, some members view the lack of a steeper decline in a positive light. The modest drop in catalog members is “probably good, since the industry has been consolidating so much,” says Martin Alpert, Dress Barn catalog vice president/general manager. “There are fewer businesses out there to spur the growth.”

And the number of brick-and-mortar retailers and Internet members to the DMA has grown in recent years, although the association can’t break out numbers among those members, says spokesman Stephen Altobelli. “A lot of the retailers who’ve been joining are also catalogers, but we categorize them as retailers. Same goes for the electronic catalogers, which we categorize as Internet marketers,” he says.

According to Wientzen, “Our take is that we’re holding our own, picking up new players in e-commerce and retail, but not penetrating small catalog companies – which we never have. Our strategy is to improve our services that are attractive to small or medium-size catalogers.”

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