Finally, good news from the list rental front. Most of the brokers contacted in mid-August reported a modest but significant increase in orders from catalogers.
BEN PEREZ, president, The Millard Group, Peterborough, NH:
Business is pretty solid. It’s not back to where I’d like it to be, but overall it has picked up. For fall/holiday it seems that catalogers are being a little more aggressive than we’ve seen the previous two falls. Our list order level is up in the single digits.
We’ve seen from internal monitoring a little less mail, a little less clutter. But catalogers are a pretty resilient lot. They know how to make adjustments and refinements. So I’m expecting a fair holiday — not sure it’ll be anything spectacular, but better than last year.
STEVE TAMKE, senior vice president, list brokerage, Mokrynski & Associates, Hackensack, NJ:
Since June, our list orders have been up modestly in the high single digits. Orders for holiday have been higher than fall orders. Spring and summer were relatively strong for our catalog clients compared with last year. Based on that, they felt they were able to add modestly to their circulation.
Catalogers know that if they don’t make their sales goals in the third or fourth quarter, they don’t have that opportunity until a year later. So a lot of them were holding back resources for these quarters this year to take advantage of that modest growth while still being prudent in circ.
Of course, we have to keep in mind that last spring/summer was just miserable, so the comps are relatively easy to beat. And catalogers are still not back to the levels of two years ago.
Also, our fall/holiday list orders have been coming in, on average, two weeks later than they would have last year for comparable mail dates. Catalogers are looking to see that last bit of performance from their mailings before [sending out the next mailing].
FRAN WOLLMAN, vice president of list brokerage, Fasano & Associates, Sherman Oaks, CA:
Last year at this time we were placing orders for holiday and everything was full speed ahead. Then we had the events of Sept. 11. Catalogers are still mailing, but not to the extent they mailed last year. Compared with a year ago, our list orders are off by about 10%.
Catalogers are cautious; the focus is really on customer retention and increasing order sizes and frequency of orders among existing customers through versioning, price-point tests within the book, and promotion tests such as free shipping and free gifts. I see a lot more activity with the co-op databases because it’s less expensive. For holiday, some mailers are increasing circ, but most of those are marketers with catalog, Web, and retail.
JOY CONTRERAS, vice president of consumer management, Edith Roman & Associates, Pearl River, NY:
On average, 30% of my orders have been new tests, 70% continuations. I’ve seen increases of as much as 40% over last year in rental revenue and activity for some lists.
Some of my clients expected a really horrible spring, but their results were somewhat promising. And catalogers — especially gifts mailers — know that fall/holiday is their one shot to get a bang for their buck. They know that they need to grow by testing and getting on with life.