S&H still a popular giveaway

What’s most striking about Catalog Tracker’s findings for May isn’t that year-over-year volume has declined for the fourth month in a row. Rather, it’s that the percentage of catalogs offering free shipping and handling remains so high.

In May 2005, Catalog Tracker — a service of Greenwich, CT-based list services firm Direct Media — received 358 consumer catalogs. That’s nearly 6% fewer than the 380 received in May 2004. Thirteen percent of the May 2005 catalogs offered free shipping and handling, down slightly from the 14% of catalogs received in April but up from 11% the previous May. The percentage of books offering deferred billing held steady at 8%, however.

Among other promotions, two video/DVD mailers offered freebies with purchases. Movies Unlimited offered “buy three, get one free.” Critics Choice Video went one better with “buy two, get one free.”

In an effort to be promotional without actually giving anything away, the front cover of Early Winters/Sahalie promised “no sales tax in 49 states.” And children’s decor title Koo Koo Bear eschewed promotions altogether in favor of an altruistic cover line: “We’ve teamed up with CureSearch to help kids with cancer.”

Although May is still officially spring, many of the catalogs featured “summer” in their edition names (Crate & Barrel’s “Color Your Summer,” TravelSmith’s “Summer Getaway,” Shades of Light’s “Endless Summer”). But women’s apparel merchants Roaman’s and Newport News apparently aren’t fans of the hot weather: The Roaman’s catalog received the week of May 15 declared itself the “Fall Preview” edition, while a Newport News book received the same week was the “Fall’s New Casual Chic” edition.

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