Not surprisingly, catalogs’ predictions for holiday are dicey at best. Selected members of the New England Mail Order Association (NEMOA) were surveyed in advance of the fall conference about how they are planning for holiday 2002 and beyond. Consultant Curt Barry, president of Richmond, VA-based F. Curtis Barry and Co. moderated a panel discussion in a session at the show, held in Portsmouth, NH.
“Results have been mixed through out the year,” Barry said. Of the mailers responding, more than half of the general merchandise catalogs are at or above plan, and above last year. The clothing catalogers surveyed, however, are not faring as well: fewer than 50% of apparel respondents expect to be at or above plan for the holiday. Several apparel catalog respondents reported a decrease in response in late July through early August, and many are 5% to 20% off plan.
Overall, most catalog respondents are planning holiday sales increases of 1%-4% above plan, on average. And as for 2003, many catalogers are planning for a modest spring and summer, with most expectations ranging from sales flat with 2002 to increases of 5%.
But Barry warned the audience not to get caught up in averages. “Develop your plan and stick to it, if it’s working.” And when re-evaluating your plan, catalogs must factor in falling confidence in the economy, the roller coaster nature of the stock market, the threat of war with Iraq, and the threat of terrorism.” All these factors can impact response.”