Secret Shopper Finds Catalogers Selling Out

Plenty of catalogs boasted about accepting Christmas orders as late as Dec. 23. But while they may have had the capability to do so, many mailers didn’t have the merchandise in stock.

CATALOG AGE’s Secret Shopper called 15 consumer catalogs on Dec. 22 and 23 to request 41 products for Christmas delivery. Only 23 of the requested items, or 56%, were available.

Women’s apparel cataloger Victoria’s Secret fared the worst, with none of the three requested products in stock. Home decor cataloger/retailer Pottery Barn and jewelry and gifts marketer Ross-Simons were the only companies contacted to have all three of the items requested available. What’s more, Ross-Simons said it would assume the express delivery charge for Christmas delivery. Pottery Barn wasn’t quite so accommodating: Not only did it charge an extra $15 for guaranteed Christmas delivery, but as Secret Shopper was fumbling for the SKU numbers of the desired products, the phone rep said politely but firmly, “Come on, we’re wastin’ time if you want me to get this to you by Christmas.”

Surcharges for rush delivery varied hugely. Home decor cataloger Sturbridge Yankee Workshop, which had two of the three requested items in stock, charged the most–$62. But apparel cataloger/retailer Talbots, like Ross-Simons, charged only its usual shipping rate. Talbots also offered arguably the best customer service: When one of the three items requested was found to be out of stock, the service rep recommended a similar, less expensive item and offered a 10% discount on it since the first choice was unavailable.

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