THE GENERAL MERCHANDISE CATALOG MARKET LOST ABOUT 200,000 ACTIVE NAMES in the fourth quarter of 2009, according to New York-based list brokerage firm ParadysMatera.

The total 12-month active mailable universe for the segment (which comprises marketers with a consistent mix of merchandise including gifts, health, apparel and home) was 17.4 million. That’s a drop of 4.3 million names from the fourth quarter of 2008.

Why a 20% decrease in active names? J.C. Penney removed its files from the market, and that’s the biggest reason for the decline, according to ParadyszMatera.

Based on lists that were active in the past year, the average house file size dropped 5.7% between the fourth quarters of 2008 and 2009. Only 41% of catalog files saw some sort of growth, while 52% saw a decline. Nearly one out of every four house files — 24% — saw a decline of 15% or more.

But the value of general merchandise catalog names is on the rise. In the fourth quarter of 2009, the average list cost per 1,000 names was $105.41 for the segment, up 55 cents from $104.86 the previous year.

General merchandise catalogs with the largest active-buyer files

Rank List name 4Q 2009 Housefile universe Avg. order
1 Carol Wright Gifts Catalog Buyers 2,190,528 $43
2 Dream Products 1,771,018 $30
3 Harriet Carter Masterfile 1,674,587 $46
4 Starcrest of California Product Buyers 1,549,741 $50
5 Dr. Leonard’s Healthcare Catalog Buyers 1,433,520 $38

Source: ParadyszMatera