List Watch: Spring List Order Outlook

When contacted in October about their outlook for spring list rental activity, most list executives were looking forward to a slight pickup in business. They were, however, also quick to point out that anything could happen between now and then.

DEBRA GOLDSTEIN is divisional manager for Scarsdale, NY-based LH Management, a division of Leon Henry.

Right now, I’m experiencing — and this is unbelievable — increased testing, which I’d never have anticipated. So if this is going to be the trend, spring could be shaping up nicely. Catalogers are trying to stay optimistic and positive, and they have every intention of proceeding with list rentals in spring. Unless something else happens, catalogers will proceed with business as usual. Direct mail will increase whenever there’s a downslide. I’ve seen it as a pattern through other times — but then again, there’s never been a period quite like this.

As for list exchanges, I think it’ll be the same strategy that list owners have always had — if it’s beneficial and less expensive, they’ll do it. I think catalogers will probably extend exchanges to more marginal competitors this year than last year. But I still don’t think they’ll exchange with anybody who’s directly competitive.

LON MANDEL is marketing services officer for Clientlogic/SpeciaLists, a Weehawken, NJ-based list and marketing company.

Next spring will be about the same as spring 2001. This is a cyclical business, and these cycles usually run six to 12 months. Spring should be the time we come out of that. The caveat is what happens with current affairs. If the war escalates, list rentals will be down because catalogers will probably use more house file names and spend less on name acquisition.

For list rental income for the spring, mailers are going to have to look outside the catalog arena. To capture the secondary and tertiary markets, we’re doing our best to diversify use of our catalog lists. First, you have to find magazine publishers who have made catalog lists work in the past and try to rent your lists to them. Then you have to do some special pricing to make your list more accessible to them. Most important, you need an aggressive sales force to market your lists to noncatalog list buyers.

ANDY OSTROY is chairman/CEO of list firm ALC of New York.

I think we will continue to see the migration toward exchanging that has existed for years now. As mailers cut back on prospecting, lists that can be obtained on exchange will continue to have the edge. And with the sagging economy and the horror of the World Trade Center attacks, we would be remiss to not suspect that response rates — and prospecting volume — would be impacted negatively.

JOHN PAPALIA is president/CEO of Danbury, CT-based list firm Statlistics.

With the obvious decrease in travel, maybe there will be an increase in catalog buying. So if we as list managers and brokers position ourselves in our marketing to get catalog lists out there, clean them up as best we can, and maybe be as open to negotiation as we can so that both buyers and sellers benefit, we can look forward to a decent spring.

My catalog clients will be more cautious, trying to go back to more of the blue-chip lists — the ones that have proven to be successful for them. Any direct mailer always tests a certain amount, but I think testing has dropped off somewhat. At the same time, the number of names to be had from the blue-chip lists has dropped off too. So we’re in a bit of a catch-22.