Live from The Annual Catalog Conference: Hopes For Fall Spring Eternal

Boston–Catalogers are an optimistic lot. Most of those contacted by Catalog Age late last week regarding their fall/holiday projections say that, despite any hard evidence that the economy will perk up, they expect to see a rise in sales.

Masune First Aid & Safety, a Tonawanda, NY-based mailer of two business-to-business titles, is projecting a 5% rise in fall sales, says direct mail manager Sue Barone. So is Mason Shoe Manufacturing, whose titles include Maryland Square, Massey’s, Stuart McGuire, and E.T. Wright.

“The first quarter was soft for us, as it was for everyone else,” says John Kuehl, senior catalog manager of Chippewa Falls, WI-based Mason. “We saw it start to turn around in April, though, and we expect the turnaround to continue through the end of the year.”

Tim Baker, general manager of Valencia, CA-based Mail Order Medical Supply (MOMS), which targets at-home caregivers and other consumers of medical products, forecasts a 25% boost in his catalog’s sales over the previous fall.

Healthcare supplies, after all, are as impervious to the economy as any merchandise niche can be. “A lot of the products we sell are products people need rather than what they want,” Baker says.

Granted, the 25% anticipated sales growth “is not as robust as it has been in previous years,” Baker notes. But rather than pinning the growth slowdown on the economy, he attributes it to “more-selective prospecting.”

Even the first half of the year hasn’t been terribly soft for Northern Tool & Equipment. The Burnsville, MN-based cataloger, which sells to both consumers and businesses, “has seen response rates increase significantly,” says vice president of marketing Jay Berlin. Looking ahead, Berlin describes Northern as “cautiously optimistic. We are encouraged based on what we’ve seen in spring.”

If Berlin is encouraged, Clambake Celebrations’ Jo-Von Tucker is downright bullish-not just on the Chatham, MA-based food mailer’s fall/holiday forecast but also on the economy as a whole. During the end of May, “we had our best sales week in the year,” chairman/CEO Tucker enthuses. “The economy will turn around, and I don’t think things are as grim as portrayed in the media.”

Gary Rovansek might beg to differ. The president/CEO of Aurora, IL-based Successories doesn’t expect things to improve during the rest of the year. The manufacturer/marketer of motivational products suffered a 10% drop in first-quarter revenue.

Peruvian Connection’s John Vesbach is laying off making any predictions altogether. “Our spring was okay. We did better than the industry at large,” says the chief operating officer/vice president of finance for the Tonganoxie, KS-based women’s apparel mailer. “For fall I’m hearing expectations that the economy will bounce back. But it seems like every time I ‘know’ something, I end up 180 degrees from there. So I try to keep my expectations in check.”

Live from The Annual Catalog Conference: Hopes For Fall Spring Eternal

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