Live from the National Postal Forum: consumers still want catalogs

Boston—If you’re worried about an imminent demise of the printed catalog, don’t be. In a session at the National Postal Forum here on Sept. 24, U.S. Postal Service vice president of product development Nick Barranca relayed results from a recent consumer survey the agency conducted. In the survey, consumers described catalogs as “like a personal assistant; [they make] life easier for me.” he said. Another survey participant said, “Mail is an excuse to sit down and relax.”

Seventy-seven percent of survey respondents said they delete e-mail without opening it, and 16% open e-mail but professed to being “annoyed.” Sixty-two percent said they looked at or read Standard Mail; just 7% described Standard Mail as “objectionable.”

That’s encouraging considering recent declining numbers in Standard Mail volume. After a dip in volume from 77.1 billion pieces in 1995 to 71.7 billion in ’96, Standard Mail volume grew steadily to 90.1 billion pieces in 2000. The following year, it dropped to 89.9 billion. But recent accounting periods, he said, have shown an upturn once again in Standard Mail volume.

Direct mail represents $45.9 billion of the $236 billion total advertising spending, Barranca said, representing 0.5% of the gross national product and 6.3 million jobs nationwide.