Survey says only 15% buy gifts via catalog

Nov 01, 1998 10:30 PM  By

Gift catalogers are once again in the midst of their peak sales season-yet according to a new survey, only 15% of consumers purchase gifts from catalogs. But the survey also reports that those 15% spend somewhere between 35% and 40% of their gift dollars on catalog purchases.

The Unity Marketing and Craig Spitzer Marketing Services study, entitled “The Consumer Market for Gifts and Decorative Accessories,” surveyed 1,006 people via phone and 296 by mail in March. Among respondents, 82% bought gifts from mass merchandisers last year and 62% bought from specialty stores. The survey defined gifts to include arts and prints; collectibles and figurines; candles; dolls and stuffed animals; stationery and picture frames; and outdoor decor.

Collectibles and figurines were the most popular catalog gift purchases, with roughly 4.7% of respondents buying such items by mail. Stationery was the next most popular (4%), followed by Christmas decorations (3.5%), dolls and stuffed animals (2.2%), and candles (2.1%).

The survey identified four types of gift buyers: gift lovers, moderates, ambivalents, and Scrooges (see story below). While the gift lovers spent the most overall on gifts, last year they spent only moderately on gifts from catalogs: an average of $148. Ambivalents (who don’t like the shopping process) spent the most, about $220, on gifts from catalogs, followed by moderates ($175), the aforementioned gift lovers, and Scrooges ($130). Roughly 26% of gift lovers and ambivalents bought from a catalog at least every other month, while 20% of moderates and a scant 4% of Scrooges did.

The research also identified a few demographic quirks that could help gift catalogers hone their prospecting efforts. For instance, survey respondents with an average annual household income of $35,000-$50,000 were most likely to buy collectible dolls and stuffed animals. In comparison, as income and education levels increased, so did spending on art and prints. Unfortunately for mailers, buyers of prints were among those most likely to shop from specialty gift stores, according to the study.

Respondents age 65 and older were least likely to buy figurines, and blacks were more likely than whites. Interest in figurines peaked among those with income between $25,000 and $35,000 and with moderate levels of education.

And more garden/outdoor decor buyers made purchases via the Internet than any other segment in the research sample.-LD

Through cluster analysis, Unity Marketing has identified four segments of gift consumers in the U.S.:

Gift lovers: 24% of the population, they are typically middle-aged, middle-income female empty-nesters with strong positive feelings about owning, giving, and shopping for decorative gift items

Moderates: 29% of the population, they are typically young, middle-income females with positive, but somewhat less intense, attitudes about gifts

Ambivalents: the plurality of gift buyers, accounting for 35% of the population, they are typically young males with modest incomes and strong positive feelings about owning and giving gifts but negative feelings about the shopping process

Scrooges: at 13% of the population the smallest segment of gift buyers, they are typically older, well-to-do males with negative feelings about owning, giving, and shopping for gifts