It’s Raining Catalogs

Catalog Tracker’s mailbox was bulging with catalogs in March. The service of Greenwich, CT-based list firm Direct Media received 423 consumer catalogs that month, a nearly 19% increase from the 356 books received in March 2003.

While solid holiday sales encouraged many consumer mailers to increase prospecting and their overall circulation, some of the spectacular year-over-year increase is doubtless due to this year’s early Easter. The holiday fell on April 11 this year, compared with April 20 last year, so some catalogers pushed up the date of their spring mailings. Next month, when we can compare year-over-year volume from both March and April, we’ll get a better gauge of whether the increase in mailings is actually the beginning of a trend.

Catalogers were slightly more promotional this March than they were last year. Free shipping offers appeared in 9% of the March 2004 catalogs, compared with 7% of the March 2003 books. Deferred billing offers held steady at 7%.

Among other offers, Babystyle, which sells clothing and gifts for expecting mothers and their offspring, gave customers who ordered online an extra $10 off. Women’s apparel book Chadwick’s of Boston touted a flat shipping rate of $4.99, while needlepoint mailer The Stitchery offered a flat rate of $4.95. Computer giant Dell promoted a free flat panel upgrade in its March edition; in its April edition, also received in March, it gave away an all-in-one printer and digital camera with the purchase of a PC. Heartland Music tried to convert prospects with a $5 discount on their first order. And gardening catalog Jackson & Perkins had a contest to win “a fabulous trip to our California rose fields.”