Stars and Stripes Bring Cheer

This holiday season, plenty of catalogers were shouting, Three cheers for the red, white, and blue. Patriotic-themed merchandise sold spectacularly, regardless of the product category.

For instance, socks and stockings cataloger Foot Traffic had to restock its supply of American flag-decorated socks three times this past fall. New York-based Catholic Direct, which sells religious-themed products, attributes a significant portion of its “steady” sales increase during the holiday season to the popularity of a lapel pin that displays a gold cross against an American flag. Jewelry and gifts cataloger/retailer Ross-Simons had a tough time keeping its patriotic-themed items — including flag Christmas ornaments from Waterford, high-end and low-end flag pins, and U.S.-themed china — in stock. At gifts catalog Miles Kimball, says president/CEO/co-owner Mike Muoio, “if it had an American flag on it, it sold out.”

Muoio also thinks that post-Sept. 11 sentiment helped business at Miles Kimball’s sister catalog, Exposures, which sells photo albums, picture frames, and related items. “Sept. 11 caused a lot of people to become more family-focused and to want to preserve those family memories,” he says.

Abbey Press, which specializes in religious-themed gifts, saw prayer-related products surge in popularity by the end of October. “It’s not out of the question that such products were more relevant at this point in time than they might have been earlier,” says president Gerald Wilhite.

Catholic Direct vice president Dean Schulhof agrees. The catalog’s performance exceeded expectations, he notes, “and it could be because people are looking to religion after Sept. 11.”

Apparently people were not looking to get dressed up this year. Although lingerie sold well for women’s apparel cataloger/retailer Frederick’s of Hollywood — contributing to a 3% rise in holiday sales from 2000 — formal attire did not. “Our dressy dresses did not sell,” says vice president of marketing Danielle Savin, “which gave us an indication that people were not going out as much.”

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