Gardening, jewelry are hot

Consumers bought gardening supplies and jewelry more often and in greater quantities than products in any other category during the 1997 fall/holiday season, according to a catalog buying trend report released in June by data modeling firm Abacus Direct. At the opposite end of the spectrum, men’s apparel, crafts and hobbies, and electronic gadgets showed slower growth.

Nearly 600 members of the Abacus Alliance of more than 900 consumer catalogers contributed their complete house files to Abacus for the report, which compares consumer buying and spending for fourth quarter 1997 vs. the same period in 1996.

Among its numerous findings, the report shows that the other leading growth categories for the quarter in dollar spending and unit sales included shoes and women’s apparel. Among the slowest-growing categories were children’s goods, health and beauty items, sporting goods, home products, and gifts.

The Abacus study, which also analyzed the demographic data of catalog buyers during the holiday 1997 period, indicated a 13.7% decrease in male catalog buyers with blue-collar careers compared to a year earlier. On the other hand, perhaps indicative of an industrywide increase in catalog shopping among senior citizens, there was a 3.7% increase among male retiree catalog shoppers-the biggest increase among male demographic segments for fourth quarter 1997.

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