Given that many catalogers moved up their spring mailings to coincide with this year’s early Easter (April 11 compared with April 20 in 2003), you might have expected the number of catalogs distributed this April to be lower than in April 2003. But Direct Media’s Catalog Tracker service received 415 consumer catalogs this April, a nearly 14% increase from the 365 books logged in the previous April. Add this to the 19% jump in March books received, and it appears that catalogers are indeed returning to the mail with a vengeance.
What’s more, the mailings are slightly less promotional than they were last year. Ten percent of the April 2004 catalogs had free shipping and handling promotions, down from 11% a year earlier. And 7% touted deferred billing, compared with 9% in April 2003.
Among other promotions, shoe cataloger B.A. Mason offered “special insider pricing for first-time customers.” BeautyTrends was also eager to convert prospects: Its cover promised first-time buyers a “$30 discount coupon inside.” Similarly, skincare marketer DHC offered first-time buyers $10 off.
Like Babystyle the previous month, general merchandiser Cody Mercantile tried to drive buyers to its Website, offering $5 off online orders of at least $80. And like The Stitchery in March, housewares cataloger Home Trends and plus-size apparel books Lane Bryant and Silhouettes in April offered a flat shipping rate of $4.95. To attract Mother’s Day shoppers, apparel mailer J.B. Dylan and housewares marketer Williams-Sonoma presented free gift wrap.
The mixed-message award of the month goes to gardening title Breck’s, which was giving away $20 worth of bulbs. It tried to create a sense of urgency with multiple exclamation points and the word “Hurry!” But given that the offer is good through the end of September, more than five months after the catalog was received, the breathless tone of the message appeared a bit hyperbolic.