Study: Iraqi War Hurt Catalog Sales

In its spring 2003 catalog industry trend report, co-op database provider Abacus reports that overall average response was in the 2%-2.5% range for house file mailings and 0.5%-1.25% for list rental mailings. But the war in Iraq did cause major fluctuations.

When the air strikes began in Iraq in March, catalog sales dropped 65% from the preceding weeks, according to the report, “possibly due to the public’s attention being focused on the war, or on consumer fears of the economic impact of the war.” But when the U.S. entered Baghdad and the initial attack appeared to draw near an end, catalog sales performance returned to prewar levels, increasing 61%.

Broomfield, CO-based Abacus says the sales slump was similar to what took place after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, when catalog purchasing was “delayed” by the attacks.

Looking back at 2002, Abacus Alliance data indicate that overall catalog sales dropped 1.5%, as 800,000 fewer households made catalog purchases than did in 2001. Some categories, however, had sales gains, such as tools (up 12%), electronics (up 8%), senior-market goods (up 6%), home decor (up 4%), and gifts (up 3%). On the other hand, sales of apparel and accessories and of children’s products declined 3%.